I meet some amazing people on this job, and one of them was Dennis Murphy.
He contacted me out of the blue one day, explaining that he was a retired New York City police detective investigator with cancer from his work in the Manhattan morgue during 9/11.
He was just diagnosed with cancer in 2017, and was incurable, but he wasn't worried about that.
He was worried that other police officers, firefighters, construction workers, utility workers and journalists from 9/11 had moved upstate in their retirement, like he had, and didn't know the benefits available through the World Trade Center Health Program.
He wanted an article in The Post-Star so that they might learn about it and get themselves tested.
I spoke with Dennis on the phone, and met him at the World Trade Center Memorial in Glens Falls. He showed me his morgue pass from that day.
After the article came out, he texted me:
Dennis Murphy never smoked a day in his life, but he has cancer of the tongue, throat and neck.
"Gwen I had to get this message to you quick. I just went out to the paper box for today's paper. PHENOMENAL ARTICLE!!!I have to say "THANK YOU" from the bottom of my heart. This is the exact message I'm trying to get out there."
Later he called me to say he had heard from a few folks in our region, and was helping get them set up with the World Trade Center Health Program.
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I hadn't heard from Dennis in a while, but he contacted me again on Aug. 1, texting me as if I didn't remember him. When I was talking to his brother, Timothy Murphy on Friday, Timothy said "once you knew (Dennis), you never forgot him."
How true that was for me.
Dennis was excited to share that he had been invited to the White House Rose Garden for a signing ceremony with President Donald Trump for the 9/11 victims' compensation fund.
He texted me a slew of pictures from the ceremony. He looked so happy.
Dennis Murphy, a retired New York City Police detective investigator, who helped sift through the remains following 9/11 lost his battle with cancer Friday morning at Saratoga Hospital.
When we caught up about it on the phone, he said, "I'm still here, good days, bad days." He mentioned that his cancer was spreading, but nothing could shake his happiness about this bill getting passed.
I was heartbroken when I heard Dennis died Friday morning, but what a legacy he has left behind. He has helped so many people, and continues to do so.
I know he'd want me to put this information here:
To learn more about the World Trade Center Health Program, go to cdc.gov/wtc. You can also call the main line of the Queens World Trade Center Clinical Center of Excellence at (718) 267-2420.
— Gwendolyn Craig