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Indy-area firefighters part of painful new 9/11 count

NYFD: 343 firefighters have died from 9-11 related illnesses

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — America is marking a solemn 9/11 milestone, and the heartache from it stretches straight into central Indiana. Authorities now attribute as many firefighter deaths from illnesses connected to the crisis as the count of those who perished during and immediately after the terrorist attacks.

The New York Fire Department says 343 emergency workers have died of health issues directly connected to their work in and around the World Trade Center ‘Ground Zero’ site.

At least five of them were members of Indiana Task Force 1. The team spent 10 days searching the rubble in New York for any signs of life.

  • Jacqueline Phillips became the first Marion County-based emergency worker to die of 9/11-linked cancer on March 18, 2013. She had worked as a firefighter/paramedic for the Pike Township Fire Department for 20 years.
  • Sam Scott died on Sept. 4, 2015, from pancreatic cancer. According to his obituary, he had served Indianapolis and Lawrence as a firefighter for 30 years and also volunteered as a Marion County Police Officer.
  • Barry Greene lost a battle with liver cancer on May 24, 2017, not long after he retired after 30 years of service with the Indianapolis Fire Department. Sean Green, one of his sons, said “He was dedicated to service. The most important thing for us to remember is that Dad was there for everyone else. We’re very proud of him for what he did.”
  • Dr. Mike Olinger died on Nov. 7, 2019. He left a legacy both for his work in emergency services and as a longtime medical director for IndyCar. He frequently traveled to disaster zones to offer his time and expertise. His passing left a major hole in the sport he loved. Iconic driver Mario Andretti wrote about him, “What I loved most about Dr. O was his demeanor….quiet, calm, reassuring. Tremendous qualities for a doctor in our sport. His presence will be missed.”
  • Mark Rapp was a founding member of Indiana Task Force 1. He served nearly 40 years in the fire service. Fellow IFD leader, Chief Howard Stahl, spoke at Rapp’s funeral service. Stahl says Rapp never regretted his time at Ground Zero. “The reply was always an emphatic ‘No, I was just doing my job,’” Stahl told mourners. “Working in that toxic hell made a lot of our brothers sick, and now we lost Mark.” Captain Rapp died on March 4, 2022.
Mark Rapp Sr. is the most recent Indiana Task Force 1 member to die of cancer that officials consider connected to 9/11 (Photo Provided/Indianapolis Fire Department)

On news of the 343rd health-related 9/11 firefighter death, Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Union Local 416 President Hank Harris released a statement to News 8, reflecting on the long-term dangers for firefighters who helped in the aftermath of the attacks. “The events of 9/11 have forever impacted the fire service. The way we do business, the way we respond, the way we train, and the way we view the long term health of our members is more important than ever,” wrote Harris. “9/11 helped shine a light on occupational cancer in the fire service, as well as the need for mental health resources among the fire service and all public safety.”