More than 300 first responders from Connecticut were involved in the rescue and recovery efforts in the days that followed the September 11th terrorist attacks. Friday, those police officers, firefighters, and paramedics celebrated the permanent authorization of the victim’s compensation fund, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign on Monday.
Paramedic Mark Greczkowskie recalled watching the events unfolding on his tv and calling up his brothers and sisters in New York City to ask if they needed his help. He and his fellow first responders with American Ambulance out of Norwich, spent 30 straight hours down at Ground Zero.
“The dust in the air was so powerful,” Greczkowski recalled.
The images of Ground Zero, the sites, the smells, still play out vividly in Mark Greczkowski’s mind. Greczkowski says crews were so busy trying to help they didn’t realize the air they were breathing could be toxic.
“We didn’t think about it I can honestly tell you, no one did until later on,” said Greczkowski.
Despite seeing his fellow first responders suffer in the years that followed, he doesn’t have second thoughts about what he did that day.
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” he said.
What he does think about, are the men and women who became heroes that day, fellow first responders who paid the ultimate sacrifice. He wears a black ribbon on his uniform in their honor.
“I want to remember each and every one of them.”
There have been 10,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in people who were at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The 44-year-old paramedic says he has not suffered any health issues so far.
“I can tell you some of my partners though have not fared so well,” he admitted.
Cancer ravaged Connecticut State Police trooper Walter Greene’s body. We talked to his family when his name was added to the State Police Memorial in May.
"He was very loved he would do anything for anyone and that's just who he was,” said his wife Suzanne Greene at the time.
The West Norwalk man fought three different types of cancers, ultimately losing his battle in 2018. His doctors blamed the time he spent at Ground Zero.
Greene’s family is awaiting approval of their claim with the 9/11 fund. Suzanne said on Friday that she’s happy to see that first responders like her husband, who made the ultimate sacrifice, won’t be forgotten.
“This bill is a very small token of thanks to everyone who gave the ultimate sacrifice, to walked in to help, didn’t look over their shoulder, and didn’t think twice about ever going back,” said Brian Foley, a spokesperson for the Connecticut State Police Commissioner.
The victim’s compensation fund, quickly running out money and set to expire next year, is now extended 70 more years, to 2090, thanks to a bipartisan effort to help the families of the victims of the terrorist attack and the families of the first responders.
“How I looked at it, was when someone calls 911 we call and when we need help we should get the same back,” said Greczkowski.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who supported the measure, said the fund is estimated to exceed $10 billion in claims.
“Whatever it takes the nation will do,” he added.
Next to that black ribbon on Greczkowski’s uniform was a World Trade Center pin. Friday, he took that pin off and handed it to US Sen. Blumenthal, as a thank you.
“We’re so used to helping other people that it’s hard for us to say I need help. This is gonna make it easier for every one of those people to come forward and say I need assistance,” he said.