Women's History: The Living Legacy of 9/11

  • March 11, 2022
A smiling family - three sons, a daughter, and a mother - hold up a red sign with the name WILLIAM J GORMLEY on it in white letters
Courtesy Gormley family

In May 2019, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum dedicated a space on the southwest corner of the Plaza known as the Memorial Glade. This space honors the thousands of people who came to help in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and further recognizes those whose actions in our nation’s greatest time of need would lead to their injury, sickness, and death in the months and years to come.

Among those honored in this space are William “Billy” Gormley. On September 11, 2001, Billy – a firefighter with Engine 310/Ladder 174 of the FDNY – responded to the World Trade Center shortly after the collapse of the Twin Towers. Over the next few months, he would spend several hours a day assisting in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

A man in a firefighter's helmet and uniform stands, smiling, in front of a vertical American flag

Bridget Gormley's father, FDNY firefighter Bill Gormley 

While Billy’s daughter Bridget felt lucky that her father made it home safe that day, the consequences of his efforts wouldn’t be revealed until 2016, when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He died six months later, in June 2017.

“After my father died, there’s a feeling that [it’s] almost as if he died on 9/11, too,” Bridget shared in a New York Post article in 2018. “It just took 17 years to kill him.”

After her father’s death, Bridget became more aware of the extent to which health effects, like those her father suffered from, were impacting thousands of others who had faced dangerous exposures on and after 9/11. As a result, Bridget became a staunch advocate for the 9/11 community, lobbying in New York and Washington, D.C. for further coverage and compensation for those continuing to suffer from 9/11-related health effects.

In addition to her advocacy work on Capitol Hill, Bridget has also honored her father’s memory by directing a documentary film entitled “Dust: The Lingering Legacy of 9/11.” With the help of executive producer Steve Buscemi, an actor and former member of the FDNY who also volunteered at Ground Zero after 9/11, the documentary tells the story of those continuing to suffer from 9/11-related illnesses and sheds a light on the ongoing relevance of 9/11.

“While their lives were spared that day, they now face a mounting health crisis,” Bridget said in an interview with IrishCentral. “It serves as a reminder of the ongoing human toll of 9/11 – nearly two decades later.”

Bridget hopes that her work will help others understand the lasting consequences of 9/11.

“I want people to know people are still dying,” she mentioned in a previous interview. “Our fathers aren’t here to speak for themselves now, so we pick up the torch and carry it on. They weren’t the first, they won’t be the last.”

Beginning September 9, Bridget will share her story, along with three other speakers, as part of our seventh annual Anniversary in the Schools webinar. Register for this free program here.

This webinar is made possible in partnership with the New York Life Foundation.

By Meredith Ketchmark, Assistant Manager of Youth & Family Programs

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