9/11 hero dies without honor

More than three months have passed since Rafael Hernández, an Aztec hero and firefighter who participated in the cleanup of Ground Zero, passed away.

His relatives are sad and his friends are angry that the city’s medical examiner has failed to connect his illness and his death with the toxic dust he breathed on the days after the terror attacks at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Hernandez died in his Queens apartment. He was one of many undocumented immigrants to work at Ground Zero, who have not been compensated, medically cared for, or recognized for their heroism.

The medical examiner ruled that he died of natural causes, linking it also to obesity and alcohol abuse.

“My children and I still aren’t used to the idea that Rafael is no longer with us, and it makes us indescribably sad to see them dishonoring the work that he did after 9/11, and they say that he simply died of natural causes,” said Brenda Olvera Rosas, who lives in Mexico City and is the mother of the brave Mexican immigrant’s children.

Olvera has requested a copy of the autopsy results from New York. “Two weeks ago, I asked what requirements I needed to fulfill in order for them to send me the results; they asked me for letters notarized by the embassy. I’m spending money that I don’t have on that. The eight letters will cost approximately 5,600 pesos [about $426],” she said, her voice choked with emotion.

Brenda has also hired Mexican lawyer Alejandro Ramírez to provide legal counsel. “I know that Rafael would have won a lawsuit against the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, but Jorge Anzola, the lawyer who was handling Rafael’s case, doesn’t respond to my calls or my emails.

“I understand that the autopsy report won’t affect that, and the money would have to be delivered to my children, but I don’t understand why they won’t give me a reason. I only want the best for Sharon, Nicolás and Aurora,” she concluded.

Editor’s note: Hernandez worked as a firefighter before moving to this country. On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Hernandez spoke about rescuing people from the towers and carrying a pregnant woman down 28 flights of stairs. He worked on the pile for months, with just a dust mask to protect him from the toxic cloud.

Deceased 9/11 volunteer Raphael Hernandez

Deceased 9/11 volunteer Raphael Hernandez

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  1. Pingback: Immigrant Workers to Train in Recognizing Hazards | Voices of NY

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