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Zadroga ActFirefighters9/11 Injuries

First Active-Duty FDNY 9/11 Hero Succumbs to COVID-19

February 17, 2021 | Michael Barasch

9/11 devastated the New York City Fire Department, which lost 343 heroes in the wreckage of the horrific terrorist attacks.

In the nearly two decades since then, hundreds of FDNY firefighters and emergency responders have succumbed to 68 different types of cancer and many respiratory diseases resulting from exposure to Ground Zero toxins.

And now, in the midst of a global pandemic, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of at least thirteen FDNY members—with the recent passing of Joseph Ferrugia, 61, the first active-duty firefighter killed by the virus.

Proudly represented by Barasch & McGarry, Ferrugia was born in Flushing, Queens, and raised in Massapequa, where he lived throughout his life.

Ferrugia was a Ground Zero responder and received two awards for bravery throughout his career.

After 9/11, he was assigned to the Rebreather Unit, where he trained firefighters and responded to emergency incidents underground and in tunnels.

Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro issued a statement commending Ferrugia for his extraordinary service to the City of New York and its people. “He ran toward danger his entire career,” Nigro said, “searching for those trapped by flames and doing all he could to save them.”

Ferrugia passing demonstrates the continuing threat of COVID-19 to the 9/11 community, which has lost hundreds of first responders and survivors to coronavirus complications.

In New York and other states, many 9/11 victims who have been diagnosed with cancer or severe respiratory diseases are now eligible to receive the vaccine. 

In the meantime, if you were in Lower Manhattan on or after 9/11, it is imperative that you register with the World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Many types of cancer and respiratory disease develop years or decades after an individual’s exposure to toxins. Give yourself and your family the peace of mind to know that health care and other resources will be available if, God forbid, you get sick in the future. Please call us at 212-385-8000 if you have any questions about the World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, or visit

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