9/11 FIRST RESPONDER BECOMES PUBLIC ADVOCATE FOR CANCER PREVENTION AND SURVIVORSHIP
Sal was one of many first responders in 9/11. His professional commitment to the FDNY and to the City of New York placed his life and well-being at extremely elevated risks in many rescue calls and even more so each day that he spent directly exposed to the deadly dust of Ground Zero. His experiences as a 9/11 rescue member help us identify the magnitude of issues that all workers underwent inside the highly toxic disaster zone, illustrating how so many have contracted the most traumatic illnesses and cancers.
Mr. Banchitta, now retired from “the job”, continues to support the entire community of first responders as a health and wellness advocate and a public speaker about maintaining continued health checkups and a proactive approach to health, safety and wellness. He is a field ambassador of the “GET CHECKED NOW” program developed by the clinical leaders of AwarenessforaCure.org and is also one of the supporting editors of the 9/11 Survivor Stories Newsletter.
As with most community-driven crusaders, Sal recalls the day that he says convinced him of this calling. "I was at a gas station one day in Woodside and I fell into conversation with someone on the other side of the pump," said Sal. "It happens all too often between any two strangers wearing FD New York jackets or shirts. Without even exchanging names, we got into it about my retirement, where I operated, then - 9/11, both my tour and his. He expressed immediate concerns about his own health in conjunction to a few firefighters that he knew personally that recently passed away. They were once in perfect health, and then all of a sudden they're gone... it was that quick. it was obvious that's what got him extremely worried. Amazing timing from the heavens, I handed him my postcard about 911CancerScan.com and told him about cancer screening for anyone exposed to ground zero. There's things that you can do to be ahead of the curve and to be vigilant. Since then, I'm finding these guys everywhere and hearing about more and more stories that you just can't ignore."
As an ardent reader and researcher of all 9/11 illnesses, Sal continually tracks the many ‘new’ cancer cases from news reports that continue to rise within the rescue community. More so, his dedicated readings also reinforce his expanding interest in learning about ALL cancer treatment modalities (from the conventional protocols to the many forms of integrative and alternative medicines) - arming himself with education and awareness against the many possible impending health effects of “the most dangerous job in the world.”
From Sal's official 2001 statement, he was quite detailed about the harsh environment of what he calls the burning dust where any safety equipment for any and all workers proved 'completely useless'. He added, "there was no way to avoid breathing in the extreme amount of particles all over the air. It constantly went in our eyes that stations were everywhere constantly flushing our eyes out. The job teaches you that burning materials and chemicals at extreme temperatures takes on a more lethal and more aggressive form to anyone exposed to it. Basically, all we had was our immune system to fight what was inside us all!"
"Life is the most precious gift of all... including the undying love and support from our families, our friends and the entire community at large --reminding us that ours was a job worth doing! Rescuers risk everything for the continuance of all this... for everyone and for ourselves!" Sal Banchitta's contributions to the First Responders Cancer Resource shows his heart is still in the right place for the society of firefighters -both retired and active. He finds a major need for this advocacy "for the 'under-informed', those in denial or anyone negligent about the need for proactive health checkups".
Since day one, he (alongside his band of fellow responders) took on every call -completely aware of the OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS that came with this line of work. Meanwhile, the true battle that any retired rescuer faces from any job-related toxic exposure is the looming concern for the many possible unknowns, including time-released cancers, prostate/lung and liver disorders, heart diseases and strokes (just to name a few).
TECHNOLOGY CATCHES UP TO MORTALITY RATES
It is this level of awakening that drew him to commit to sharing this vital information with his fellow rescuers, both retired and on active duty. His passion to learn about job related cancers also covered learning about ALL innovations, advancements in lab and genetic testing, diagnostic technologies and facilities available to track, monitor, treat and prevent cancers. “In the fight against cancer, education is job #1… we need to be smart about this disease and to make better decisions about all the options available. (Also see: (article) An Upgrade in Post-9/11 First Responders Cancer Screening and (article)"Patient-Friendly" Advancement in Early Cancer Detection)
AN EXCERPT FROM (RET) FIREMAN SAL BANCHITTA'S 9/11 TESTIMONY
“45 minutes after the towers came down, there was a city recall meaning all firefighters had to come in. Many of us met at Shea Stadium and raced to West End Avenue in buses. After Tower 7 came down, we operated all night long inside “the pile” and we were looking to see what we were able to do. We helped create a human chain that pulled out the trapped Port Authority police officer. Having spent the entire day and night manning the zone, it was the most exhausting shift that felt like forever! The next day, went back to the firehouse, showered, changed from the (bunker gear) contaminated clothes at the firehouse. And then the next night tour, we ended up being back at the pile all night long again. This went on for an entire month for me going down there in and out at completely different times- inside the thick of those fumes and billowing smoke on that pile with no masks or anything on.”
1) Occupational Health Concerns of Firefighting:
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