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Peekskill 9/11 Responder Returns To Ground Zero

PEEKSKILL – Ten years ago Peekskill Police Officer Charlie Wassil was among those who arrived at the World Trade Center site after it was attacked on Sept. 11.

Last Friday Wassil returned to the scene for the first time with members of the Post 911 Foundation, a group founded by his old NYPD partner Detective Richard J. Miller to care for those who were injured or sickened from the attacks.

Wassil and Miller were honored by the September 11 Museum with flying a flag that had flown at Ground Zero after the attack and then in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa with U.S. troops. The men were joined be NYPD and FDNY members early Friday morning in the flag ceremony and immediately afterwards the flag was presented to the museum.

"I was the last human being to ever touch that flag," Wassil said.

Wassil was also one of several people from the foundation asked to speak at the NASDAQ opening bell ceremony. "I congratulated SEAL team 6 on killing that coward Bin Ladin," Wassil said.

A video of the NASDAQ event can be seen here .

Wassil, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, joined the New York Police Department in 1986 and served until 1990 in the 44th Precinct in the Bronx.

In 1990, he joined the Peekskill police and retired as a detective in 2008. Just four months later, Wassil was diagnosed with neurosarcoidosis, which causes severely inflamed cells in his spine that left him paralyzed. Wassil was forced to fight the Workers Compensation Board in order to get them to cover a necessary medication that was not FDA approved.

Wassil has been critical of the Zadroga Bill passed last year, which provides aid to victims and their families. Cancer victims have been denied funding at least for the time being since federal officials say there is no definite link between cancer and 9/11 responders. However earlier this month the medical journal Lancet published a study finding fire fighters at Ground Zero were 19 percent more likely to develop cancer in the seven years after 9/11 than their FDNY peers.

While Wassil said returning to the site brought back bad memories he said he was impressed with what he saw.

"It's nice to see that new tower going up," Wassil said.

Wassil also recalled the people who were lost that day including the emergency responders like former Peekskill cop Sam Oitice, a New York fire fighter.

"The guys who were running into those buildings, they were the real heroes," Wassil said.

For more information on the Post 911 Foundation or to make a donation, go to www.post911foundation.org

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