9/11 First Responders support group holds meeting

(L-r) Mario Persichilli, Claudio Morrone, supporter Anthony Oliva, Gabrielle Pacino, and Louie Ferrara join together to help first responders at the Morris Park Community Association on Thursday, March 19. The group is gathering first responders from the area together, providing a channel to work with government agencies to get aid for 9-11 related illnesses. Photo by Patrick Rocchio

On Thursday, March 26, a small group of men who responded to a national tragedy met in the Morris Park Community Association’s center, speaking about medical issues they said are related to exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. The group joins together in drawing attention to the plight of 9/11 first responders.

Morris Park resident Gabrielle Pacino and the Feal Good Foundation – a Long Island-based non-profit advocating for those sick with ailments they say are related to exposure to toxins during the September 11th clean-up – brought the group together.

“We are trying to get other 9/11 first responders in the Bronx together if they are sick,” Pacino said.

Pacino was working on a construction project at Columbus Circle on September 12, 2001 when he volunteered. He is now seeking to have the Federal Emergency Management Agency recognize his workman’s compensation claims. He has lung ailments he said were a direct result of exposure to toxins at ground zero.

“I am not looking to get rich,” Pacino said. “I just want my life back.”

So far, Pacino’s compensation claims have not been approved, and many of the records of the 30,000 to 40,000 first responders that were not part of any emergency rescue service – like Pacino’s – have been lost.

“We want to get help,” said Claudio Morrone, a first-responder from Pelham Parkway. “I was a laborer and never went on unemployment until my symptoms started. When I stopped working, I did it because I couldn’t move. They say that I am some sort of hero – but to tell the truth – I wish that I had never gone down there.”

The group has a lot of support in the community.

“I think meeting is good because it is something that Garbrielle [Pacino] feels very strongly about, and because as the years pass since 9/11, more and more people have become sick,” said Victor DiPierro, a community affairs officer in the 49th precinct. “This group is definitely trying to make something positive out of a negative situation. I think the people running it are really sincere, and it could serve as a support group as well.”

DiPierro said he thinks in years to come there will be more people coming down with impairments from the dust cloud that lingered after 9/11, and the still-unnamed group could really be helpful for those individuals who become sick.

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