US

Ray Pfeifer, firefighter, voice for 9/11 health care, dies

A retired New York City firefighter who spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, then became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders while wracked with late-stage cancer himself, has died, the fire department said.

Raymond Pfeifer died Sunday after an eight-year fight with the disease, the department said. He was 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 comedian Jon Stewart, went to Congress to challenge lawmakers to extend health monitoring and treatment for Sept. 11 first responders in 2015. Congress ultimately did reauthorize the program.

"I was just a poster boy," Pfeifer said when he was honored at New York City Hall in January 2016. But "we got something done. ... It was hard-fought. We dealt with people that didn't really get it."

Stewart, meanwhile, said he had merely been Pfeifer's "wingman" on their trips to Washington.

Pfeifer served over 27 years in the Fire Department before retiring in 2014, according to a Daily News of New York profile of him the next year.

"It was exciting from day one up to the last day I worked, every single minute," he told the newspaper. "I was proud every day to put that uniform on."

"It was a great way of living," he said.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Sunday that Pfeifer was "a true fighter," from battling blazes to pressing for help for sickened 9/11 first responders.