James Zadroga grew up in North Arlington, New Jersey. As a detective with the New York Police Department, Mr. Zadroga became heavily involved in recovery operations after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York City. According to reports, Mr. Zadroga logged 450 hours at the World Trade Center (WTC) site. The exposure cost him his life.
According to his father, Mr. Zadroga developed a chronic cough not long after finishing his work on the WTC site. He suffered acid reflux, nightmares, headaches and soon needed oxygen tanks and antibiotics. Losing 40 pounds during his illness, Mr. Zadroga was found dead on his bedroom floor on January 5, 2006.
While the story of a man made ill by working at the WTC site is no longer surprising, at the time, the death of Mr. Zadroga was the first fatality indicated by the office of the medical examiner as directly related to the 9/11 incident.
This statement set off a political backlash denying the link between the WTC tragedy and the death of a first responder. Sadly, it resulted in the tarring of Mr. Zadroga as a drug user, rather than a hero.
In January 2011, President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. Key provisions of the Act include the following:
- Creation of the World Trade Center Health Program to monitor and treat individuals with 9/11 related health conditions
- Reopened the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund for individuals injured or made ill by 9/11 health conditions until the Fund is again closed on October 3, 2016
A 34-year old family man who died on his bedroom floor gave his life to help others — and his name to provide hope to victims of September 2001 and their families.