NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An NYPD Lieutenant who died of a 9/11-related illness is being honored as a hero.
Brooklyn-born officer Marci Simms was diagnosed with lung cancer after she spent months at ground zero.
“It was smoky you felt like it was just burn your throat,” she said in a video from last year talking about what she faced responding to the World Trade Center on 9/11.
A place of unbearable tragedy, she kept returning to the site with selfless dedication every workday for four months.
She was a rookie NYPD officer at the time. She moved up the ranks to become a department lieutenant, her career flourishing but her health was deteriorating.
“I had a backache and they found a lump on my stomach and we just thought it was a cyst,” Simms says in the video. “It was lung cancer and it spread.”
Sims lost her battle with cancer on Thursday at home on Long Island. Her sister, Susan Fosco, describes her as an angel, a fighter and a hero.
“She had an amazing personality. When she walked in the room, it lit up,” Fosco told CBS2’s Dave Carlin. “I always remember her saying, ‘If a man can do it, I can do it.'”
Simms visited the 9/11 memorial in Lake Ronkonkoma with her husband Keith several months before she died. It’s where CBS2 spoke to 9/11 first responders advocate John Feal about the loss of a friend.
“She also came to this park knowing that, sadly, one day she would be on this wall. We humbly will honor Marci next year when we do the reading of the names,” Feal said.
Simms’ medical costs were taken care of by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, but Congress failed to renew the program last month.
“What about those whose families are being torn apart by 9/11-related illnesses yet they have a cloud of uncertainty because the nation’s leaders can’t come together to pass a bipartisan bill,” Feal said.
Parts of the Zadroga Act, which covers 30,000 people, have already expired. If nothing is done, the Zadroga Act will completely expire in late 2016.