Lt. Paul Deo Jr. and Richard Jones both died on Friday, over 18 years after they served as first responders on Sept. 11, 2001

By Rachel DeSantis
February 10, 2020 11:35 AM
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Credit: FDNY (2)

Two retired New York City firefighters who served selflessly as first responders during the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 died Friday of illnesses related to the tragedy.

Lt. Paul Deo Jr., 74, and firefighter Richard Jones, 63, died the same day, over 18 years after they worked at Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

“Nearly two decades later, our FDNY family continues to lose remarkable men and women who never wavered in their commitment to protecting life and property in our city,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “Our department will never forget them or the bravery they exuded throughout their careers.”

Deo was a firefighter for 33 years, and was assigned to Engine 317 in Queens before he retired one day shy of the one-year anniversary of 9/11, the FDNY said.

Jones, meanwhile, worked for 20 years at Ladder 25 in Manhattan, which lost seven members when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, according to the New York Daily News.

He received three acts of merit during his decades-long career, in 1992 and 1997. Jones retired in October 2002, according to WLNY.

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The men were the 217th and 218th members of the FDNY to die of 9/11-related illnesses in the 19 years since the twin towers fell, according to the Daily News.

The department lost 343 members during the attacks, the FDNY said.

The deaths of Deo and Jones come seven months after President Donald Trump signed into a law a hard-fought-for bill that extended funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for another seven decades.

The fight was helped along in part by former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who gave a fiery speech in June before the House Judiciary Committee that slammed Congress for “ignoring” first responders.

The bill provides money for the VCF, which helps financially support 9/11 responders, survivors, and their families, through 2092, which became necessary after many developed various diseases due to their exposure to carcinogens such as jet fuel, mercury and asbestos.

The fund had previously said it was running out of money more quickly than planned, given escalating claims from 9/11 victims.