Ball Works To Help Sons of 9/11 Heroes Become Firefighters
BREWSTER, N.Y. ─ State Sen. Greg Ball is working to undo a flaw in the New York Fire Department legacy points system which is keeping the sons of men who died from illnesses related to serving at Ground Zero from being able to follow their fathers’ footsteps.
Under the complicated scoring system for the Fire Department’s entrance exams, applicants can earn an extra 10 “legacy points” if a parent or sibling died in the line of duty. However, as of May 30, the FDNY Bureau of Personnel interpretation is that current Civil Service laws do not consider deaths from illnesses to be “line of duty,” even if the illnesses were acquired after work on The Pile after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
As a result of losing those extra points, at least 13 men have been thrown out of contention for the current class of aspiring firefighters, and must wait four years to take the exam again. However, because of age restrictions, less than half of them will be eligible to take that exam.
Ball drafted legislation to designate such deaths as line of duty, and allow the men a chance to enter the FDNY Academy. It has passed the state Senate and Assembly, and is waiting for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.
“Many of those brave enough to respond and blessed enough to survive on 9/11 are suffering and dying from ailments connected to their time spent at and around ground zero. Many sucked in a witches’ brew of poisons destroying their bodies,” Ball said. “We must honor their sacrifice by giving their children the same opportunity we currently give to children of EMT’s and siblings of police officers and firefighters who were killed the day of.”
The bill seeks to define the term “killed in the line of duty” to include deaths that were the natural and proximate result of either the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, or participating in the rescue effort that was conducted after the attacks.
Although the current academy is already under way, Ball’s spokesman said the bill is retroactive and will help those who need it now.
Larry Sullivan Sr. was with Rescue Company 5 on Sept. 11, 2001, and spent many days in the rubble of the World Trade Center searching for survivors and helping to recover victims. His three sons are depending on legacy points to help get them into the academy.
“In April 2011 my father was diagnosed with a rare intestinal cancer which was directly related to his time spent at ground zero. When my father passed he was still an active member of the FDNY. The Fire Department recognized his death as line of duty. This recognition led to my two brothers and I receiving a letter from the FDNY awarding us legacy points toward the exam we took in April 2012,” James Sullivan said. “With our list numbers, my brothers and I looked forward to starting the process of becoming firefighters. Until the three of us received a devastating letter from the Fire Department stating that our claim for legacy points did not meet the requirements and our points were taken away from us. Our hearts were broken.”
Ball called the problem a result of “what appears to be a perfect storm of imprecisely drafted previously passed legislation, unfortunate oversight and/or regrettable bureaucratic interpretation of the current laws.”
There is no word from Cuomo’s office about whether he plans to sign the bill.