HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A first responder, now in hospice care, wants to help other people with 9/11-related illnesses.
“You look good Ray,” CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff tells him.
“Everybody says that, but they usually say that before you die anyway,” Ray Pfeifer replies.
At 59 years old, Pfeifer doesn’t know how much longer he has to live. But the 9/11 first responder with terminal renal cancer does know how he’ll use the time he has left. He’s paying forward the kindness shown to him.
“I always say, ‘do the right thing, even when nobody is looking,” he tells Gusoff.
Pfeifer was one of thousands of firefighters who tirelessly worked for months on the toxic pile at Ground Zero. He later championed the Zadroga Bill, which secured health care for 100,000 people.
“People constantly passing from 9/11 cancers. We get notifications daily that somebody is passing,” says Michael O’Connell, with the FealGood Foundation.
Now on Pfeifer’s well-crafted bucket list is a new van, like the FDNY family transport one that’s helped him get to his medical treatments for years. He’s raising $70,000 to pay for it.
The FDNY has 32 of the vans, and they’ve been used thousands of times to transport firefighters, EMTs and their families to medical and hospital visits. Each one is named in memory of a fallen hero.
Pfeifer couldn’t wait for that.
“I didn’t want to wait to die and then wait for flowers, and then in lieu of flowers to give to the van. I wanted to do it now,” he says. “Nobody gets out alive in life. If I can pay forward by getting this van and wherever else I can help out to be a voice, it’s important to me.”
“You want to leave something, leave a good legacy, let them always keep talking about you. And something like this, it saved Ray’s life. It saved our family,” his sister, Maryellen McKee, says.
The van assures not only his name lives on.
“I am going to live forever,” he says.
Surely his legacy will.
The fundraiser to help pay for the van takes place Saturday afternoon at Mulcahy’s Pub in Wantagh. Comedian Jon Stewart, a longtime supporter of 9/11 first responders, will make an appearance.