Over twenty years after 9/11, a brave NYPD officer paid the ultimate price while investigating the World Trade Center’s hazardous rubble.
Queens resident Barbara Burnette, 58, passed away on the 30th of December after a lengthy and debilitating battle with health issues related to her ordeal of spending 23 terrifying days in the burning Ground Zero rubble after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack that brought down the twin towers.
The former college basketball player’s valiant post-9/11 fight for life ended in a wheelchair after she was diagnosed with lung cancer, forcing her to retire from the New York Police Department in 2006. A year prior, she had been diagnosed with lung abnormalities that would eventually render her housebound.
Burnette, who experienced hypertension and post-traumatic stress disorder after her time in lower Manhattan, went on to become an outspoken supporter of health benefits for 9/11 rescue workers.
Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, remarked, “Barbara is someone I will never forget.” Also, “I will never forget the efforts she made that day and throughout a career that was cut short by the attack on this country.”
Brooklyn native Paul Talty lived with his wife and three children on Long Island. Paul was a member of the NYPD’s Emergency Service Squad 10. On 9/11, Talty reported to the South Tower. Today a white rose was placed at his name at the #911Memorial in honor of his 60th birthday. pic.twitter.com/3bJN06FQep
— 9/11 Memorial & Museum (@Sept11Memorial) November 23, 2020
The veteran cop, who was assigned to the 73rd Precinct’s gang squad that fateful day, took a boat from Sunset Park to the World Trade Center site in downtown Manhattan, where he arrived just before the 110-story buildings collapsed.
Burnette worked in the hazardous environment for the following 12 hours as she assisted in the boat evacuation of a pregnant woman and several others back to Brooklyn.
Burnette described returning to Ground Zero hours later on September 12 and for weeks thereafter, describing how she worked without a mask and repeatedly spit out poisonous soot from her lips and throat.
She told the Daily News in 2015, “I had to continuously get my eyes wiped out.” “I was coughing and spitting up a lot. I didn’t give it much thought because I was too busy thinking about the other people I could aid.
After the attack, Burnette began advocating for federal funding for the first responders who were suffering from a wide range of illnesses. In 2015, she wheeled herself around Capitol Hill to lobby for an expansion of the Zadroga Act’s insurance coverage for 9/11-related medical expenses.
Burnette’s last public appearance was in September, right before the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and she did so while using an oxygen mask while seated in a wheelchair.
Lee, her husband and fellow NYPD officer, three children, and five grandchildren will miss her greatly. It was posted online that the wake would be held on Friday, and the funeral would be held on Saturday, both at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church in Brooklyn.
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