PHOTOS: Sickness and death stalk firefighters who put out a massive blaze in 1975 that destroyed the New York Telephone Exchange in the East Village.
“I have leukemia. Everybody got something,” said retired FDNY Firefighter Danny Noonan.
“We lost about 18 guys in the first 10 to 12 years,” Noonan said. “For years, every time the phone rang, all you would hear was, ‘Hey Danny, guess who died?’ ” Veterans of the five-alarm blaze are being honored by a pair of plaques unveiled over the weekend at the FDNY’s academy on Randalls Island.
About 700 firefighters fought the blaze, and an additional 4,000 telephone company employees were brought in to fix up the building and repair the damaged cables.
No one died fighting the fire itself — but the Fire Department believes many people died from its after-effects. Noonan said it’s believed that about 40% of those who were at the fire were diagnosed with some form of cancer. No one knows for sure.