Ground Zero responder still fighting lung damage - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Ground Zero responder still fighting lung damage

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 12:00 am

POST FALLS - When Jerry Justis responded to Ground Zero, he figured it would take crews a year to clean up the rubble.

"It was just that scale and size," the Sandpoint man said.

Justis - who attended a Patriot Day ceremony in Post Falls on Tuesday that remembered those who died during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks - was dispatched to New York 11 years ago with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help set up security during the aftermath of the tragedy.

As proud as he was in that role to help others, the Navy veteran said it came with a heavy cost.

Justis' lung capacity is at 27 percent - the direct result of breathing fumes and particulates around Ground Zero, he said.

"I thought that I had a chest cold after 88 days, but when I came home I found out that I had chemical pneumonia," he said.

Justis said that he had to wipe off his desk four times a day during his New York experience.

"You'd lay down a piece of paper and, 5 minutes later, it would be brown," said Justis, who arrived at Ground Zero seven days after the attacks.

Justis said that prior to 9/11 he had no health issues and his previous jobs required physicals.

"I never had any lung problems before," he said. "I was known as the 'Mountain Man' in Wallace and would throw a chainsaw over my shoulders and climb mountains."

Today, he's on oxygen and, while he continues to enjoy riding his motorcycle as part of the Patriot Guard Riders, fishing and hunting, he's slowed up considerably.

"I was told by a lung doctor that I'd die by 2005," he said. "They didn't know me well. I can't walk through the woods, but I'm not going to die in bed."

Justis said he is saddened that two others he was with during the 9/11 aftermath and had similar health issues have died.

Justis said he receives some medical assistance through the Department of Labor due to his condition, but was denied benefits through the Department of Justice. More funding, he said, wouldn't help his condition.

"It just keeps getting worse," he said.

Justis said he saw a lot of greed and injustice during the aftermath of the disaster.

"Items were stolen on the fire trucks and we even had to broaden our security zone to watch the freezer trucks," he said. "Looters, momento seekers, whackos ... "

He remembers 1,200 people a day lining up to receive financial assistance from 14 agencies that were set up in the same building.

Justis said he has bittersweet feelings on the anniversary Sept. 11.

"Of course I have regrets," he said. "My life has been taken from me. But I also know that I made a difference by helping people."

9/11 rescue manager to speak

POST FALLS - Retired Fire Chief John Norman, who was the search and rescue manager for the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, will speak at a seminar for emergency service agencies and anyone interested from Friday to Sunday at the Greyhound Park and Event Center in Post Falls.

The seminar, called "Fireground Command Operations," will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Cost is $30.

Some contents may not be suitable for children, so only adults can register. The event is hosted by the North Idaho Fire Chiefs Association.

Topics include trapped firefighter rescue, strip mall store fires, private dwelling fires and how to become a street-smart firefighter.

For more information, call Heath Sheppard at 777-8500.

Register at

More about

More about

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • ancientemplar posted at 1:51 pm on Wed, Sep 12, 2012.

    ancientemplar Posts: 1287

    The democrats are nothing more than sound bites.

  • will-- posted at 8:32 am on Wed, Sep 12, 2012.

    will-- Posts: 1213

    "Hmmmmm democrats care more huh?"

    So much for the self proclaimed party of compassion.

  • ProIdaho posted at 7:35 am on Wed, Sep 12, 2012.

    ProIdaho Posts: 264

    I was pleased to see that on Sept 10 the congress and the President passed a bill that now cover an additional 58 cancers for first responders.

    I did find it interesting that the House wanted this coverage to last for 30 years but the Senate reduced it to only 5 years. Hmmmmm democrats care more huh?

  • DeNiles posted at 6:30 am on Wed, Sep 12, 2012.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    The deepest insult to this country, the victims of 9/11 and the ongoing medical problems of the responders was the warm greetings and respect afforded ex-prex Clinton at the recent Democratic convention. If you study the evolution of Osama Bin Ladin, al-qaida and the 9/11 attack they all got formulated, set up and ready to roll during Clintons tenure. And worse, Clinton had some easy opportunities to get OBL and he chose to not take them.

    This is not FOX news stuff. This is factual information. It is National Geographic. By the time Bush took office all of the 9/11 terrorists were trained, in this country and action ready. All of the 9/11 pilots started and completed their flight training in this country while Clinton played oval office bingo with Lewinski. OBL was behind the 1st bombing of the Trade Center and many other attacks on American interests during Clintons term. Clinton knew about OBL and they had clear opportunities to get him and they only tried once.

    Should Bush have done better? They all need to do better. But, when Bush took office the 9/11 operatives were already in their hide-mode. They all lived on cash and moved their residences every 30 days. They were all set and just refining their plans, and awaiting for the best time to execute them. They held off the attack until Congress returned from their summer recess.

    Hindsight is always 20/20. But you do not laud the man who failed so badly in such a deadly attack. Clintons daily message to this country should be - 'I am sorry and do not be lulled into the same complacency that fogged up my poor choices'.

  • voxpop posted at 4:34 am on Wed, Sep 12, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    I've always found it odd that families of victims have been made millionaires by the generosity of others but those who ran to help hardly got a thank you. And those same families squabbled about who got how much when.

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Not you?||
Logout|My Dashboard