WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. -- Amid the day's somber remembrances, Tim Sullivan, a 9/11 responder with cancer, was thinking about one thing: Next month, he and untold numbers of people like him could be left without medical care or financial support.
If the Zadroga Act expires without government action, tens of thousands responders and survivors of the attacks will be affected, said Sullivan, a retired Bergen County Sheriff's detective and Wood-Ridge firefighter.
"We just got there as the second plane hit the building," he recalled. "I did hear the ground shaking and saw the water shaking."
His unit, stationed at Liberty State Park, transported firefighters that were buried in rubble to Jersey City Medical Center.
"The firefighters were covered in soot," Sullivan said. "It was like glue-like substance."
A moment of mercy then changed his life.
"I did mouth-to-mouth on one of the firefighters," Sullivan said. "He had soot on his mouth. I didn't think nothing of it. I was very ignorant to the fact of the chemicals. I just did what I had to do.
"Nobody expected to get sick."
Eight years later, Sullivan was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Sullivan has since undergone four rounds of chemotherapy that caused dental damage and weakened a wall of his heart. A pacemaker or defibrillator is in his future.
The chemo treatments alone cost about $20,000 a week; some shots aret $9,000 each. And although Sullivan has a pension and medical plan, he figures he's out more than $150,000.
"I consider myself fortunate for numerous reasons," he said. "I am here when others didn't make it home and I have a pension.
"But there are many that aren't so fortunate."
It's 18 months now that Sullivan's cancer has been in remission.
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