NYC officer who worked in ground zero rubble dies of cancer

Posted at 11:29 AM, Nov 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-09 12:29:29-05

NEW YORK (AP) — Family members, officers and friends have said farewell to a police lieutenant who worked at ground zero after the Sept. 11 attacks and recently died of cancer.

Funeral services were held Sunday for New York Police Department Lt. Marci Simms, of Long Island. She died of lung cancer Thursday at her home.

Relatives said the 51-year-old Simms was one of the thousands of first responders who worked at ground zero. She spent more than four months doing rescue, recovery and cleanup work among the smoldering rubble, and she later became ill, they said.

Simms, in a project produced by the Stony Brook University School of Journalism last year, talked about the conditions at ground zero, CBS New York reported.

"It was smoky," she said. "You felt like it was just burning your throat."

Simms' husband, Keith, cared for her as she became increasingly sick.

Doctors have been monitoring 9/11 workers closely for any sign that toxins at the site gave people cancer. No such link has been found for lung cancer, but research is ongoing. Ground zero workers who get the disease may still qualify for free medical care and compensation from a federal program set to expire next year.

Simms joined the New York Police Department in 1998 after graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She worked in Manhattan and Brooklyn before joining the 107th Precinct in Queens in 2013.

"Her heart's desire was always to be a policeman," her sister, Susan Fosco, told the Daily News.

On Sept. 11, 2001, extremists linked to al-Qaida hijacked four airlines to carry out their attacks. Two of the planes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York, a third hit the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and a fourth crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.