Joseph C. Zadroga, whose lobbying helped provide health benefits to thousands of emergency responders whose health was impaired by inhaling dust and debris at Ground Zero after the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack — although his efforts came too late for his own son, a New York City detective — died Saturday after being struck by a car in Pomona, New Jersey. He was 76 years old.
His death was confirmed by his son Joseph F. Zadroga.
Early Saturday afternoon, the elder Mr. Zadroga visited his wife at the Bacharach Rehabilitation Institute. According to Galloway Township police, he was standing in front of his parked car when he was struck by an SUV that apparently accelerated accidentally and pinned him underneath. He was pronounced dead at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center.
A retired police chief from North Arlington, New Jersey, Mr. Zadroga was instrumental in Congress’s 2010 passage of the James Zadroga September 11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides federal medical benefits, including monitoring and treatment, to police officers and firefighters. and emergency medical workers who fell ill as a result of their exposure to contaminants following the 2001 devastation in Lower Manhattan. Mr. Zadroga and others successfully pushed Congress to reauthorize the legislation in 2015.
The death of his son James was the first death of a public official officially linked by an autopsy to a rescue worker’s time at Ground Zero.
James Zadroga died in 2006, at the age of 34, after devoting some 500 hours to recovery efforts for what became known as Pile. By the following May, after sifting through the rubble for human remains, workers had removed 1.8 million tons of tangled wreckage. He eventually qualified for disability pension benefits and received a one-off payment to cover lost income from the government compensation fund which expired in 2003.
His death came a year after his wife, Rhonda, died of a heart attack, leaving him to raise their 4-year-old daughter, Tyler Ann. She was orphaned when he died while bringing her a bottle, and she was raised by her parents, brother and sister-in-law.
“I just want everyone, the victims who got sick, to have the health care they deserve, because Jimmy didn’t get it,” Joseph Zadroga said at a 2014 rally.
Patrick Hendry, president of the Police Benevolent Association, New York City’s largest police union, said in a statement: “Joseph Zadroga took on a fight that no father should have to face. But he fought for his hero son with incredible courage and helped every individual respond to 9/11.
After his son’s death, Mr. Zadroga was invited by Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Manhattan Democrat, to testify before Congress, and he helped mount a national campaign for health care legislation which was supported by comedian and talk show host Jon Stewart and others. celebrities.
In her testimony, Ms. Zadroga cited a letter written by her son: “Everyone praises the dead as heroes, as they should, but there are more living people who suffer than dead people. »
The Ocean County coroner initially found that James Zadroga died of “respiratory failure” resulting from “a history of exposure to toxic fumes and dust.”
But about a year and a half later, New York City’s chief medical examiner, Charles S. Hirsch, concluded that the particles in his lungs came from prescription drug abuse. (His family said the reason he took painkillers was because he was finding it increasingly difficult to breathe.) A third opinion, that of Dr. Michael Baden, who had served as chief medical examiner for the city in the late 1970s, supported the coroner’s initial opinion. discovery.
The conflicting opinions befuddled Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who agreed with Dr. Hirsch’s conclusion and said, “We wanted to have a hero, and there are many.” “It’s just that in this case, the science says he wasn’t a hero.” The mayor later apologized, saying, “I believe James Zadroga was a hero for the way he lived, regardless of the way he died.” »
James Zadroga is not on the 9/11 memorial.
Joseph Charles Zadroga was born April 2, 1947 in Newark. His father, Charles, worked for RCA. His mother, Ann (Czyc) Zadroga, ran the household.
After graduating from North Arlington High School, Joseph earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from William Paterson College (now William Paterson University) in Wayne, New Jersey, and a master’s degree in emergency management from the Fairleigh Dickinson University. I served in the Army in Vietnam from 1966-1968.
In addition to his wife, Linda (Baczewski) Zadroga, and his sons, Mr. Zadroga is survived by his sister, Paula Bates, and two grandchildren.
Joseph Zadroga worked for the North Arlington Police Department from 1970 until 1997, when he retired as chief. He later taught at the Bergen County Police Academy. On his forearm were tattooed a crucifix, his son’s name and the words “Not forgotten.”
“Joe turned his son’s tragedy into something that really helped so many people,” said Michael Barasch, James Zadroga’s attorney. northjersey.comadding that James “did not die in vain, because of the autopsy ordered by his parents.”
“Without it,” he said, “we would never have the evidence necessary to move Congress to act.”