By Maria Sole Campinoti
(CNN) — The number of first responders from the New York City Fire Department who have died from 9/11-related illnesses has reached 343, matching the number who lost their lives on the day of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Two more members of the FDNY died this September from 9/11-related illnesses, shortly after the 22nd anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, according to a statement on social media from the fire department.
Hilda Vannata, an emergency medical technician for the fire department, died on September 20 from cancer, says the department.
Vannata was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City as a child, according to her obituary.
She joined the fire department in 1988 and served as an EMT with Battalion 14-Lincoln Hospital for 26 years, the obituary stated.
Retired firefighter Robert Fulco died Saturday morning from pulmonary fibrosis, making him the second member to lose their lives this week, according to the fire department.
“We have long known this day was coming, yet its reality is astounding just the same,” said Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh in a statement.
“343 of our heroes lost in one day, and today, 343 more. The FDNY will never forget them. This is our legacy. This is our promise,” she said.
In addition to the rise in the number of firefighters and first responders who died following rescue operations at ground zero, the number of diseases connected to the World Trade Center attacks continues to grow as well, said Kavanagh.
According to the fire department, 11,000 firefighters suffer from World Trade Center-related diseases, including 3,500 who have cancer. Exposure to the toxic materials in the aftermath of the disaster has been linked to heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancer, and other diseases.
“So many of our members showed up for us that fateful day, and so many were lost. The legacy we create for them is one of honor, and one of promise,” said Kavanagh.
“That is why we continue to advocate for the survivors, and we will not stop pushing until all our members have the care they deserve for the rest of their lives,” she said.
More than 71,000 people are currently enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry, which seeks to track the health of 9/11 first responders and other people who were in the immediate vicinity of the attacks.
In addition to first responders, the attacks have left ongoing health effects on workers in the World Trade Center who evacuated their workplaces, passersby, residents of the surrounding buildings and volunteers who spent time at ground zero in the weeks after.
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