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PEP May 2006
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Public Employee Press

9/11 first responder dies
Paramedic Deborah Reeve succumbs to asbestos disease
as Ground Zero casualty list continues to grow


The two children of Paramedic Deborah Reeve, Elizabeth (with her mother's helmet) and Mark, mourn the loss of their mother, who passed away
on March 15.


Paramedic and member of Local 2507 Deborah Reeve (center) enjoys the company of her friends. Reeve joins list of Ground Zero casualties.

By ALFREDO ALVARADO

Paramedic Deborah Reeve recently became the third Local 2507 member to die of an illness tied to toxic exposures at the 9/11 disaster site.

The 17-year veteran was one of hundreds of DC 37 members who worked at Ground Zero Sept. 11 — rescuing victims and searching for survivors of the terrorist attacks — and in the subsequent recovery effort. To do their jobs, they breathed the noxious smoke that saturated the asbestos-laden air, but in the early weeks city agencies provided no breathing protection.

During the eight-month recovery period, Reeve was assigned at various times to the morgue at Ground Zero, where she helped medical examiners identify body parts from the rubble.

Death toll climbs
By 2003, she began having respiratory problems — difficulty breathing and a persistent cough. Doctors later discovered cancer in her lungs and diagnosed it as mesothelioma, which develops after exposure to asbestos. After waging a two-year battle with the malignancy, Paramedic Reeve passed away on March 15; she was 41 years old.

“She was an amazing Paramedic, a wonderful wife and mother and a good friend,” said Pat Bahnken, president of Local 2507.

The collapsing towers killed four DC 37 members. Paramedic Carlos Lillo, Paramedic Lieutenant Ricardo Quinn of Local 3621 and Fire Dept. Chaplain Mychal Judge of Local 299 all died doing their city jobs. Chet Louie, a Betting Clerk in Local 2021, had a second job in the WTC.

But the death toll didn’t end on 9/11. The price of doing good was an early death for Emergency Medical Technicians Felix Hernandez and Tim Keller and Paramedic Reeve.

Hernandez was one of the dozens of heroic members of Local 2507 who answered the call of duty Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center. He returned to Ground Zero to work in the recovery effort. There he was exposed to the asbestos that is believed to have contributed to the lung disease that took his life Oct. 23, 2005. Hernandez joined the Fire Dept. in 1995 and was 31 when he died.

Heroes forgotten
Keller was among the first rescue workers to arrive at Ground Zero, where he witnessed the collapse of the Twin Towers. Working around the clock to save lives, Keller breathed toxic smoke and asbestos dust as he sifted through mangled steel beams and burning wreckage. He died in his Long Island home on June 23, 2005. Keller was 41 and is survived by his two sons and a former wife.

Last January the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association ­an-nounced that three more Firefighters had died from similar causes.

Despite her heroics at Ground Zero, Paramedic Reeve, who worked at Station 20 at Jacobi Hospital, had to spend a year fighting the city for disability benefits. After her Workers’ Compensation claim was rejected, the New York City Employees’ Retirement System made Reeve the first city worker to get a line-of-duty-injury disability pension under the new 9/11 disability law, but she did not live long enough to receive a check.

“This should not be happening,” said Bahnken. “She should have been treated like the hero that she was. Andit’s happening not only to our members, but also to construction workers and everybody that worked down there.

“The problem is that the city treats this like an accident instead of an illness. If you don’t get sick within two years you’re out of luck. This is bureaucratic bull.”

Reeve is survived by her husband, David, who is also a Paramedic, and two children, Elizabeth, age 10, and Mark, age 6.

 

 


 
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