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9/11 Ferry Boat Hero Dies of Cancer

Last Modified: July 15, 2019

Thomas Phelan

In the years that have passed since the terrorist attacks that took down New York’s World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, thousands of people who were in Lower Manhattan that day have died of malignant mesothelioma and other forms of cancer.

Joining their ranks in recent days is a 45-year-old ferry boat captain who had been widely hailed and recognized as a hero for successfully evacuating hundreds of people from the disaster zone.

It is unknown whether Thomas Phelan had mesothelioma or some other form of cancer, but his death is being attributed to exposure to the toxic materials, including asbestos, that choked the air after the towers fell.

Asbestos is a mineral that was known to be a significant component of the World Trade Centers structure, and when the buildings fell after having been struck by hijacked commercial airplanes, great clouds of toxic dust filled the air for days.

Iconic photos taken that day of office workers and first responders covered with dust have become an emblem of the illnesses that have cruelly claimed so many lives.

When asbestos is inhaled or ingested, its needle-like fibers become embedded in the cells of the mesothelial lining of the pleural cavity or peritoneal cavity, eventually mutating into malignant mesothelioma.

There have been numerous cancers diagnosed in people present during 9/11, as well as other disasters that have released asbestos into the environment. A special program called the World Trade Center Health Program has been formed specifically to provide for their health needs and track the illnesses diagnosed.

Mr. Phelan’s role on that day was notable, as he was not a first responder by profession. As a captain on board one of the Circle Line Statue of Liberty ferry cruises, he ferried people from Lower Manhattan to safety in New Jersey. Two years later he joined the Fire Department of New York and was eventually promoted to marine pilot with the force.

Malignant mesothelioma has claimed far too many lives. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with this asbestos-related disease and you need information or assistance, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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