Toms River, New Jersey – A firefighter who was called a hero for his efforts at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001 died last Friday after succumbing to respiratory failure that his family says was the result of toxic dust.
Capt. Mark Lee, 53, died at Community Medical Center, having succumbed to respiratory failure. Lee helped remove rubble from the World Trade Center site after the terrorist attack and his family believes his death is related to toxins that were in the air at the site, News12 reported.
"These guys went over there and did everything they could, and in the process it might have gotten them sick," said Mark Lee, Jr., who is also a firefighter in Jersey City, told the television station.
On the New York State Police Officers' Memorial in Albany, the names of 60 officers killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks are engraved, the number of officers who have died subsequently due to 9/11-related illnesses number 71.
The World Trade Center Health Program was established to provide medical monitoring and treatment for first responders and cleanup workers who were exposed to the toxic dust following 9/11.
In Jersey City, Mark Lee had to leave active duty with the fire department by Christmas 2013 because of his worsening health. Before doing so, Lee organized one last Christmas toy drive.
Lee received numerous awards as a firefighter and as a volunteer for organizations such as the Special Olympics Torch Run and Fireman's Picnic and was a Board Member of the FDJC Distress Fund. For the past 27 years, Mark led the FDJC Christmas Drive. He was named Irish Firefighter of the year in 2011.
Lee leaves behind his wife, Cheryl, and children, Jennifer Bimbo and her husband, Richie, Christina and Mark Jr., and a grandson, plus siblings.