John Devlin, 50, was a healthy, athletic engineer who never smoked. In 2009, however, after toiling at Ground Zero following 9/11, he developed a disease often associated with a longtime chain smoker: throat cancer.
The cause of his cancer, though not yet scientifically proven, seems painfully obvious to Devlin and scores of others who like him got sick from breathing in the toxic soup of chemicals at Ground Zero.
As an operating engineer, Devlin worked in the pit 12 hours a day, seven days a week for nine-and-a-half months, shoveling wreckage into carts and hauling it to the west side piers.
“When I got down there on the 12th, it was like snowing debris. I remember as clear as day saying, ‘We’re taking years off our lives being down there,’” recalled Devlin, as he used the inhaler he now depends on to breathe normally due to emphysema.