My name is Sal Banchitta- aka- Cousin Sal. I've had an incredible 30+ year career in the NY Fire Department, what so many of considered to be the best job in the world. There is no other profession that even comes close to the rewards of being a city firefighter. We were the first and last line of defense to protect this great city from any catastrophe and aligned with a special family of the most unique and remarkable men and women is truly the ultimate blessing.

So many of us will back me on this; there is no such thing as a RETIRED FIREFIGHTER. The very spirit to make a difference as a first responder is a calling that stays with all of us until our last day. We are 'built' to stand watch for any threats to our community and be at the ready to do what needs to be done to restore safety and normalcy to the lives of our neighbors. One of many such examples is 9/11- where so many old-timers and active responders from all over the country raced to New York City at a moment's notice to unite with our fellow rescuers. Seeing our city in peril was an instant call to run to the scene without any hesitation and stand next to our fellow rescuers to work and sacrifice everything all over again.

A retired rescue worker from ground zero once told me "...we used to live by the rule that first responders should give care to all others -- but it's time we understand how to take care our ourselves too!" After enough grey hair and doctors appoointments, age finally gave way to insight and perspective when it comes to looking out for my own health. Where terms like PREVENTION and LONGEVITY finally made their way to "life-after-the-FD", I have acquired a new appeciation for awareness, education and research as far as health issues (and cancers) that loom over responders who exposed themselves to toxins on the job.

If hindsight is 20/20, history has a great way of teaching us the most important lessons- and defining the next steps in our immediate future! The many lives lost in disasters like wars and fires seem to result in a battery of revolutionary adjustments to our policies and processes. Out of the 1975 NY Tel Exchange fire (for example) where 699 responders lost their lives to cancer, the big take-away from this disaster was to bump up safety equipment for all firefighters- including HAZMAT scanning and protection. We recognized that modern construction materials and the many industrial advances (like the prevalence of plastics in so many applications) emitted so many deadly toxins and carcinogens to anyone exposed when set ablaze.

I lerned another major lesson in all over this- that CANCER IS SNEAKY. In many cases, this disease actually HIDES- and in even more cases stays DORMANT (like a terrorist "sleeper cell"). Cancers can be time-based, and when it finally comes out, you rarely get a warning until it's too late. For the average firefighter (where most of us think we are Superman), GETTING CHECKED is not always at the top of our list of things to do. Delaying checkups is one of the main causes for cancer malignancy which is why docs always say "the sooner you get it checked, the better the likelihood of killing the cancer!" Today, because of enough disasters and educational programs, I am glad to see that we are finally changing our tune about our own safety.

"Life is the most precious gift of all... including the undying love and support from our families, our friends and the entire community at large --reminding us that ours was a job worth doing! Rescuers risk everything for the continuance of all this... for everyone and for ourselves!" Sal Banchitta's contributions to the First Responders Cancer Resource shows his heart is still in the right place for the society of firefighters -both retired and active. He finds a major need for this advocacy "for the 'under-informed', those in denial or anyone negligent about the need for proactive health checkups".

Since day one, he (alongside his band of fellow responders) took on every call -completely aware of the OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS that came with this line of work. Meanwhile, the true battle that any retired rescuer faces from any job-related toxic exposure is the looming concern for the many possible unknowns, including time-released cancers, prostate/lung and liver disorders, heart diseases and strokes (just to name a few).

It is this level of awakening that drew him to commit to sharing this vital information with his fellow rescuers, both retired and on active duty. His passion to learn about job related cancers also covered learning about ALL innovations, advancements in lab and genetic testing, diagnostic technologies and facilities available to track, monitor, treat and prevent cancers. “In the fight against cancer, education is job #1… we need to be smart about this disease and to make better decisions about all the options available. (Also see: (article) An Upgrade in Post-9/11 First Responders Cancer Screening and (article)"Patient-Friendly" Advancement in Early Cancer Detection)

Meet ELIZABETH - my greatest achievement in life! It's not uncommon for the drive for rescue service to continue down the family line. Ever since she was a baby, she always loved to visit me at the fire house and get on the fire trucks- not knowing she was planning her future right then and there. Today, Liz is a New York State certified EMT-B in a Suffolk County L.I. Fire Dept. She is also a recent graduate with honors of Farmingdale State College and is on her way to Med School! (what a Brain!) She is also a current volunteer in the NY Cancer Resource Alliance as a columnist and an assistant editor of the educational awareness quarterly magazine-The Journal of Modern Healing.
(SEE: Complete article on ASTHMA and other 9/11 Toxins)

Here's my cancer scan specialist, (L) Dr. Robert Bard, top radiologist in NYC with (R) Gov. David Paterson.

Once you do enough Google-searching (especially key words like "CANCER PREVENTION", "STAY IN REMISSION"), you'll learn how to come up with a simple plan to keep cancer away- or increase the likelihood of beating cancer with the comprehensive Early Detection & Prevention plan. In each case, much can be done to prevent the current stage. The first step is to GET MORE FAMILIAR WITH YOURSELF.

• Be aware of your genetic lineage: risk of cancer increases upon heredity. The first place to look is within your own dna or family history. Many cancers tend to travel down generations. It can also have the tendency to skip one generation and appear in the next one.

• Periodic Checking of your body for any anomalies like lumps, bumps, discolored bruises or growths. Self-checking is the first base. Also stay on top of unusual feelings like frequent headaches, unique pains and strains- anything that feels out of the ordinary. Take nothing for granted when it comes to your body.

• Know your environment: Many health issues are known to be caused by environmental toxins. Where you sleep, eat and work could be affecting how you feel later. Some health hazards are fairly visible and apparent while others may need some historical research in your area where there may have been potential chemical wastes or spills in the past. If you know of such issues, further research, demographic studies, protective measures and targeted checkups may be your next step.


"The PTSD doesn’t go away, it’s something I’ll probably deal with for the rest of my life but Patriot has made life a lot easier for me, by helping me with my “grounding.” states Darryl Vandermark from an interview with Movember.

According to 2019 statistics, an estimated 15-20 of every 100 veterans from active duty in the past 20 years have PTSD. About 7-30% of first responders fall in the diagnostic criteria of PTSD and according to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 7-19% of police officers experience symptoms of PTSD during their lifetime. The first time I got wind of this issue was in association with 9/11, but lately, I've been reading it more and more from everywhere.

So last night, I turn on the TV to watch the football game and what do I see- 5 service personnel on the field with their PTSD DOGS being honored... and one of them is our friend Darryl (HAZMAT Chief from Middletown). It was then that I made the connection from our newsletter that this year, NYCRA is promoting organizations that support PTSD dogs. In addition, our Mental Health director in our First Responders project (Jennifer Glynn) also announced that we were going to be launching a public program supporting veterans and fire service personnel with PTSD. What an exciting year! (see article)



What do you know about the 1975 NY TEL EXCHANGE FIRE? Listen to Gary Stemm's experiences in "The Fire Still Burns" - a mini-series of interviews about surviving first responders from historical events. They describe their firsthand experiences and share their thoughts about safety and health and concerns about all first responders. This episode highlights the devastation of the 1975 NY Tel Exchange Fire, a disastrous event where 700+ firefighters responded to one of the largest fires in NYC history which ended in tragedy due to the toxic nature of this deadly fire. • See Video Pilot

Looking back at the massive collection of photos in his personal vault, Chief Bob Checco assembled this priceless treasure trove of experiences, stories and photographic portraits about many of the retired firefighters of New York in one globally-accessible set of galleries (see: Thanks to his remarkable memory for the many names and faces in this tremendous collection of never-before-published photos, we can finally enjoy coursing through the generations of FD history as far back as his 'probie' years when he snapped that first shot in 1958. This is Chief Checco's gift to the surviving members of the FDNY and their families. Visit his photo archives at:

MRI's and X-rays are still photos. They're very helpful in checking what's under the skin, but still pictures do not tell the full story. Join the modern age of imaging technology with REAL-TIME scanning power. Real-time scanning performs more like a video camera allowing a true action scan power for faster searching, monitoring and tracking. Get the full story in true motion from moving tumors and foreign bodies like splinters and shattered glass particles-- plus the ability to study the blood flow of the injury! See BurnScan site

12/3/2019- You could never remove all the disturbing emotions and images from your mind. We called it THE PILE- a simplified name for something short of the largest crime scene and HAZMAT case in history. September 11, 2001, I was front and center of all that- and today, the entire area has been completely transformed into a polished memorial and a museum. As with any memorial, it makes you think a lot and reminiss about the historical impact. But for the many responders, it's still about the toxic smells, the dust, the heat and the pain that comes with my tour of duty. I guess time heals wounds differently for all of us. (Coming soon- "Rescue Memoirs")

Since we started our public education program about rescue safety, it was just a matter of time before our producers decided to go national with streaming video. This year, the creative directors of Modern Healing news and the Rightwriters Studios are developing CousinSal-TV! Soon, you'll get to meet my "mini-me" as one of the studio hosts of the first responders health program! We've got some of the top FF community leaders and safety experts sharing some of the most important topics in wellness and prevention to bring your health and longevity back on the front burner. 10-4!

Recently in the news, they're talking a lot about asbestos and asbestos-related cancers due to 9/11 exposure because when the Twin Towers collapsed, all the asbestos that was in there for insulation was aerosolized. And when you breathe that stuff in, in small particles that have been micronized from the explosion and compression phenomena, when those particles get lodged in the lungs, the body doesn't have a good way to excrete it. Because lung tissue (unlike liver tissue for example) heals by scarring and not regeneration, when the lungs are exposed to chronic irritants that the body can't get rid of, chronic inflammation and irritation ultimately leads to the death of lung cells called pneumocytes. That area of damage causes bronchiectasis and scar tissue formation which can lead to COPD and the diseases associated with that including cardiovascular problems and death. (SEE: Complete article on ASTHMA and other 9/11 Toxins)


I've been on the road with cancer speakers like Dr. Jesse Stoff and Dr. Robert Bard from NYCRA since 2018. Together, we produced many videos for social media and visited firehouses and FD member meetings where we would present about prevention and early detection. This year, we've got some new names and faces to add to our mission including Dr. Noelle Cutter (Cancer Researcher and Professor of Molloy College), Darryl Vandermark (HAZMAT Chief) and Cheri Ambrose (cofounder of MBCC). Together, we aim to cover new ground in public awareness about cancer- everything from what's going on in the news like current statistics, resources and the latest innovations. This is where we really make a difference in the community! Check us out at

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