Cancer kills 9/11 volunteer months after feds approve coverage

Adan Gonzalez
Adan Gonzalez and his daughter, Paola. (Courtesy of Paola Gonzalez)

By the time officials said Ground Zero toxins might have caused cancer, Adan Gonzalez was already dying from his.

Gonzalez, 69, died last month from throat cancer, which his daughter Paola Gonzalez said he developed after two years of volunteering at Ground Zero.

More than a decade after the attack, many 9/11 responders are ill after spending months and years toiling in the toxic dust surrounding the attack site.

So many contracted cancer — a study last month found responders have a 15 percent higher rate of cancer; 2012 data showed an average age of 44 — that the Zadroga Act, a fund that compensates people who are sick, announced 50 covered cancers in September.

But Gonzalez, an immigrant who came to the city from Colombia without knowing English and “believed in the American dream,” his daughter said, was already sick — he received his diagnosis that month.

His story, she said, is “all too familiar” for 9/11 responders.

John Feal, who runs the FealGood Foundation that assists responders, told Metro that 1,300 have died – and that number is climbing.

Just last week, the names of five police officers who died – most under age 50 – from 9/11-related diseases were added to a memorial wall at One Police Plaza.

Gonzalez, a photographer for more than 45 years, volunteered with the Red Cross at Ground Zero, his daughter said, giving out food to first responders and taking photos for the aid group.

“He loved his country,” she said. “He put his life on the line without expecting anything in return.”

In June, she’ll head to Washington, D.C., hoping to talk to politicians about ending the red tape she said added to her father’s suffering.

Her father “was getting the run around” during his illness, she said, waiting on answers to questions about whether his illness qualified. Years after Zadroga was passed, others told Metro they had not received funds.

“He died waiting for that,” she said.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison


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