Ground Zero Hero’s Passing Highlights Importance of Zadroga Act

Just weeks after the <"">James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act finally passed, a retired New York City firefighter succumbed to an illness thought to be linked to his rescue work at Ground Zero. Roy Chelsen, 51, had risked his life going into the North Tower after the South Tower had collapsed, and managed to drag out several firefighters. Chelsen was buried in upstate New York this past Saturday.

Chelsen worked at Engine Company 28 Ladder 11 for 21 years before he retired in 2006. According to, Chelsen became the first firefighter to die since the passage of the Zadroga Act. In the years since the attacks, Chelsen developed multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that usually affects older people.

“There were a lot heroic things done that day, many of them have been documented, many of them have been spoken about time and again. He never spoke about it, he just thought he was doing his job … he was an unbelievably quiet leader,” Steve Cassidy, head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, told

According to a report on The Huffington Post, in 2009 doctors at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine reported that they had detected eight cases of multiple myeloma among the entire population of 28,000 Ground Zero workers and volunteers. This was alarming for several reasons. For one thing, only 6.8 cases would have been expected in a group of that size. What’s more, four of those eight cases were men younger than 45 at the time the disease was diagnosed. Finally, three of the four were law enforcement officers who had arrived at Ground Zero on the day the towers collapsed, meaning they had been engulfed in the thickest plumes of dust produced by the collapse.

The Zadroga Act, which finally passed Congress late last year, designates $4.3 billion to provide health care, monitoring and compensation to responders and volunteers sickened by toxic dust at Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For the first time, those who have suffered psychological aftereffects from the attacks but no physical symptoms will be eligible for compensation. According to an earlier Wall Street Journal report, decisions on administering and allocating the Zadroga bill compensation fund will be made by a special master, to be appointed by President Barack Obama.

As the Huffington Post pointed out, Roy Chelsen’s passing is a reminder of why the kind of monitoring and research that will be made possible by the Zadroga Act is so badly needed.

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