As Americans learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA, thousands of emergency responders and health care professionals rushed to the scene to help.
These brave heroes, who came from every corner of the nation, included Dr. J. Randall Pearce, a forensic dentist working with the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Dr. Pearce came to Ground Zero on a grim but vitally-important mission: to identify victims based on their dental records.
His daughter, Kimberly Peterson, told NBC Knoxville (WBIR) that her father was honored to apply his skills to the search-and-rescue and recovery efforts.
“He could take something as dark as dental identification through death and he would make it where it was helping families, bringing closure, bringing peace to a lot of these families,” Peterson said.
Tragically, Dr. Pearce’s work at the World Trade Center site exposed him to toxic dust that has been linked to 68 different types of cancer and numerous respiratory diseases.
Dr. Pearce ultimately developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow from the lungs.
Like so many other members of the 9/11 community, his underlying condition left him uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19’s attack on the immune and respiratory systems.
On Christmas Day, Dr. Pearce, 69, died from coronavirus complications, exacerbated by his 9/11-related respiratory disease.
His passing demonstrates the serious risk of COVID-19 for 9/11 first responders and survivors who have been diagnosed with cancer or breathing problems, including more than 100 Barasch & McGarry clients who have died.
The World Trade Center Health Program provides access to free life-saving medical treatment for all 9/11 first responders and survivors — in addition to benefits to support the families of those who have succumbed to their illnesses.
In 2019, a permanent extension of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was signed into law. But to file a claim involving cancer or other illnesses diagnosed more than two years ago, you must register with the VCF by July 29, 2021.
Give yourself and your family the peace of mind to know that free health care and other invaluable resources will be available if you get sick in the future.