Raymond J. Pfeifer, a retired FDNY firefighter who successfully advocated for 9/11 recovery cleanup workers to receive federal health care benefits and assistance, passed away in Port Washington, New York, on May 28th. He was 59 years old.
Pfeifer raced to the World Trade Center on the morning of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. After barely surviving 7 World Trade Center’s collapse, he remained on-site for the next eight months to aid in the recovery efforts. His prolonged exposure to the toxic dust and debris in the NYC Disaster Zone caused the conditions that ultimately claimed his life.
His first cancer bout surfaced in 2009, when he suffered a tumor that broke his hip and developed into Stage 4 kidney cancer, requiring emergency surgery. His condition worsened and required multiple surgeries and procedures in the following years, which included hip, femur and knee replacements and a kidney removal. He also suffered a heart attack due to chemotherapy treatments.
Undeterred, he championed the campaign to extend health care benefits for 9/11 survivors and emergency workers. His advocacy, along with that of several other emergency workers and public figures like comedian Jon Stewart, was instrumental in the reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The reauthorization extended victims’ federal benefits beyond 2015, its initial end-date; this consequently extended its health care provisions to 2090 and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund’s compensation deadline to 2020.
Pfeifer’s successful efforts were met with wide acclaim, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio presenting him with a key to the city in 2016.
Pfeifer is survived by his wife Caryn; daughter, Taylor, who has been accepted to be an officer with the Suffolk County Police Department; and his son, Terence, a Fire Department emergency medical technician.
His funeral was held June 3 in Hicksville, Long Island and was eulogized by Stewart. “Make no mistake, Ray Pfeifer died in the line of duty,” Stewart said during the eulogy. “But more importantly, Ray Pfeifer lived in the line of duty. It was about service.”
For more information about Mr. Pfeifer’s life and impact, click here.