At Wednesday's Tribute to Heroes 12th annual ceremony in observance of 9/11, retired West Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Ed Cleveland brought an often overlooked but very important fact to everyone's attention during his remarks. The terrorist attacks took the lives of 2,996 people that day but the human toll continued well into the future.
"It's important to remember the 343 New York firefighters who perished," Cleveland said. "But there were thousands of first-responders and volunteers from outside the city who came to do what needed to be done. And nobody knew what the dangers were because they were only concerned about doing the job -- not for hours, but for days and weeks and months."
Ground Zero proved to be a deadly place after that day. As the Herald's Vin Mannix discovered in his reporting, more than 1,000 first-responders have died from illnesses contracted while working at the World Trade Center debris field. Some 5,000 rescue workers have suffered with impaired lung functions and an estimated 1,140 died from cancer. Another 20,000 workers are receiving medical care across the country.
These heroic souls should be remembered every year, too.