After The Dust Settled: Retired NYC Firefighter Remembers 9/11 After Lung Cancer Journey


A retired New York City firefighter recalls his return to the city he once served for more than three decades on the day prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and all that followed, including his several bouts with lung cancer years after the dust had settled.

Gerald “Jerry” Sanford dedicated his life to serving the citizens of New York City for more than 30 years — first as a police officer and then as a firefighter.

After 29 years of service as a New York City firefighter — the last nine of which he served in the department’s press office — Sanford retired in 1997. Three years later he and his wife would move to Naples, Florida to live out their retirement years. However, as Sanford recalls, retirement life wasn’t for him. He found a second calling working at the North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District, which coincidentally would lead him down a path to returning to the city he served for more than three decades one day prior to the devastating Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, CURE® spoke with Sanford for this special edition of the “CURE® Talks Cancer” podcast about the antique firefighter helmet that led him back to Ladder 42 in the Bronx on Sept. 10, 2001, the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and why he volunteered to return to his old post in the press office. We also talk with Sanford about his several bouts of lung cancer — which may be attributed to his exposure to the air around ground zero — and what advice he would offer others facing a cancer diagnosis.

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