The number of first responders from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) who have died from 9/11-related illnesses is now equal to those who died on the day of the historic tragedy.
Two further members of the FDNY died in September, bringing the total to 343, the same number as those who died in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Penatgon and in Pennylvania on September 11, 2001.
Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh announced the deaths of emergency medical technician (EMT) Hilda Vannata and retired firefighter Robert Fulco on Saturday – marking the “somber, remarkable milestone”.
Ms Vannata died on Wednesday September 20 after a battle with cancer, having joined the fire department in 1988 and serving as an EMT with Battalion 14-Lincoln Hospital for 26 years, her obituary stated.
Mr Fulco died of pulmonary fibrosis on Saturday. Both deaths were a result of the time the pair spent working in rescue and recovery at the site of the attack.
It comes just two weeks after the 22nd anniversary of the tragedy, which claimed a total of 2,997 lives and injured thousands more.
“We have long known this day was coming, yet its reality is astounding just the same,” said Commissioner Kavanagh in a statement shared online.
“With these deaths, we have reached a somber, remarkable milestone. We have now suffered the same number of deaths post September 11th as we experienced that day when the north and south towers fell.
“Our hearts break for the families of these members, and all who loved them.”
In her post Ms Kavanagh reiterated the force’s responsibility to NYPD colleagues, 11,000 of which are suffering from World Trade Center-related diseases, including 3,500 with cancer.
According to the World Trade Center health registry, which tracks the health of 9/11 first responders and those in the vicinity of the event, 71,000 people are enrolled in its programme.
It makes the registry the largest effort in the US to monitor the health of people exposed to a large-scale disaster.
“Our commitment to their service and sacrifice must remain as unshakeable for the next two decades as it has been for the last two,” Ms Kavanagh’s statement read.
“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.
“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.
“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.”