Every state in the U.S. has at least one person battling cancer or another illness related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) announced Monday that more than $1.3 billion has been doled out to 5,636 claimants still suffering from an illness resulting from being present at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or the Shanksville, Pa., crash site on the day of the attacks.
First responders such as police officers and firefighters account for 91 percent of those battling an illness, VCF said. Eighteen percent who have been awarded compensation have been diagnosed with cancer.
While the majority of recipients live in New York and New Jersey - 4,515 and 379, respectively - at least one lives in every single state. The next most represented states are Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
"This geographic diversity reminds us that September 11th affected us as a nation, and volunteers and responders came from across America to offer assistance and support to those in need," wrote VCF's Special Master Sheila Birnbaum.
In all, the group says it received 19,721 total applications for eligibility, though only 12,712 claims have been decided and 11,770 claimants were found eligible for compensation. Of those, 7,193 have submitted complete compensation claims. "The undecided claims are being reviewed to confirm that all statutory requirements have been met," VCF said.
The group said it plans to start winding the program down, with the last day someone can submit a claim being Oct. 3, 2016.
Frank DeMasi, a retired NYPD detective and former Emergency Service Unit cop currently living in North Carolina, was told that the lining of his esophagus was damaged from breathing in the toxins on 9/11, reports the New York Daily News.
DeMasi told the media outlet that he isn't surprised at how widespread the issue is. "When it happened, we saw cops and firefighters helping out from all over," he said.
Another retired NYPD Emergency Service Unit officer, 57-year-old Paul Johnson, who lives in South Carolina, had his lung tissue damaged from the fumes at Ground Zero and is now slowly dying of pulmonary fibrosis. He requires constant oxygen and suffers from periodic body convulsions, the Daily News said. "People want to sweep it under the rug, but we're all dropping dead," Johnson said.
The New York City Fire Department lost 341 firefighters and two paramedics at Ground Zero, where 71 law enforcement officers were also killed. By 2012, DeMasi said more cops had died from post-9/11 cancers and other illnesses than were killed in the attack. A department spokesman told the Daily News that more than 1,000 active and retired firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer related to the attack.