Thousands Mourn FDNY Firefighter Who Died of 9/11-Related Cancer

Even while he battled his illness, Ray Pfeifer was involved in lobbying to pass the Zadroga Act which, when passed in 2011, compensated victims who suffer from diseases due to exposure during recovery efforts

What to Know

  • Ray Pfeifer died Sunday at the age of 59 following an eight-year battle with cancer
  • A retired NYC firefighter, Pfeifer was one of the first responders to the 9/11 terror attacks and got sick from his work at ground zero
  • Mayor de Blasio presented Pfeifer with a key to the city in a City Hall ceremony last year and is expected to attend his funeral Friday

Jon Stewart fought back tears Friday as he described his friendship with a retired New York City firefighter who worked in the rescue effort following the Sept. 11 terror attacks and died after an eight-year battle with cancer. 

The comedian spoke at the funeral Mass in Hicksville for Raymond Pfeifer, who died Sunday on Long Island at age 59. 

Pfeifer was among those who lobbied fiercely for the renewal of the Zadroga Act, which provides health benefits to first responders who fell ill after the attacks in 2001. He and others, including Stewart, went to Congress in 2015 to challenge lawmakers to extend health monitoring and treatment for Sept. 11 first responders. Congress ultimately did reauthorize the program. 

Pfeifer served over 27 years in the fire department before retiring in 2014. 

"Make no mistake, Ray Pfeifer died in the line of duty, because of illness in the terrible terrorist attacks of 9/11," Stewart told mourners. 

"But more importantly Ray Pfeifer lived in the line of duty. Now and forever. That's what I remember most about him." 

The former host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" recalled becoming exasperated when it appeared lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., were not succeeding. The comedian said he grew weary of being handed business cards by politicians. Pfeifer remained calm, Stewart said. 

"He patted his chest and he reached in and he pulled out prayer cards. Hundreds," Stewart said in a reference to the 343 firefighters killed on 9/11. 

"He said, 'I got all the cards I need.'" 

Stewart, fighting back tears, concluded: 

"And now Raymond, I got one," pulling out a prayer card for Pfeifer. "And it's going to teach me how to do right. Thank you."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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