New York City 9/11 Hero Dies from Coronavirus


Fire marshal John Knox, who worked at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, died Monday from COVID-19.

The 84-year-old died at around 10 a.m. at Mt. Sinai South Nassau Medical Center in Oceanside on Long Island, New York, the New York Daily News reported.

Knox died 19 days after he passed out from what appeared to be flu-like symptoms on Feb 26.

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He had pre-existing medical conditions stemming from his work at Ground Zero, according to WCBS, including chronic pulmonary disease and reduced lung function.

“John has worn many hats over his lifetime, US Marine, Firefighter, Fire Marshal and Labor Leader, but he will best be remembered as a loving husband, father and friend,” friend Peter Gleason told the Daily News. “John would want his untimely demise to be used to draw attention and resources in finding a cure or vaccine for the coronavirus.”

Knox founded the FDNY union representing fire marshals and investigated hundreds of fires in the 1970s and 1980s.

He also was part of investigations into the terrorist bombings by the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion, like the 1975 bombing of Fraunces Tavern.

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Knox investigated cases as a private consultant well into his 80s until he was admitted into the hospital.

His family tried to get the hospital to give Remdesivir, an experimental medication developed to fight Ebola, to Knox on Saturday, but because of underlying kidney conditions, doctors could not give it to him.

“The patient — who had not traveled to any high-risk countries or been exposed to someone with symptoms of COVID-19 — was admitted to the hospital on Feb. 26th and did not meet the CDC criteria in place at the time for COVID-19 testing,” the hospital said in a statement.

“He did have an underlying chronic health condition as well as new symptoms. He later was diagnosed with COVID-19 and MSSN staff did everything possible but we confirm his death with deep regret and sympathy for his family, many of whom are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure.”

It is currently unclear how he contracted coronavirus, but New York’s public health system said that first responders who worked at Ground Zero after 9/11 and survivors of the terrorist attack were at risk, the New York Post reported.

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“We do very much worry about people from the World Trade Center incident,” Dr. Mitchell Katz, president of NYC Health + Hospitals said.

“This is New York, right, where we have a number of people who may be suffering from lung dysfunction due to their exposure. So it’s basically that people — your lung function and structure are not normal — your risk is greater.”

Following Knox’s death, there have been calls for firefighters to be among the first tested for coronavirus when testing kits become available because they are often the first to respond to medical calls.

“We’re asking for quicker testing with quicker results,” Gerard Fitzgerald, president of the Firefighters Union, told WCBS.

He added that nurses and police officers should also be prioritized for testing.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith