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9/11 Responder Loses Battle With Cancer At Age 51

9/11 Responder Loses Battle With Cancer At Age 51

Roy Chelsen, seen here in 2006, saved the lives of many firefighters on Sept. 11, 2001.

New York Daily News via YellowBrix

January 11, 2011

NEW YORK – Roy Chelsen, a heroic 9/11 first responder, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 51.

On 9/11, Chelsen, of Engine 28 in Manhattan, rushed a group of firefighters out of the World Trade Center’s north tower moments before it collapsed, saving their lives.

Then he stayed on at Ground Zero, spending weeks digging through the rubble. He was later diagnosed with incurable bone-marrow cancer linked to his time there.

Blood drives were organized in his honor, and last month, he received a stem-cell transplant after a long and difficult search for a matching donor.

“This was so sought after that once he finally got the match we were calling it his new birth date,” said Kevin Murray, a friend and fellow firefighter. “He got the match – finally – after five years.”

Murray is among the firefighters who credit Chelsen with saving his life on 9/11. Chelsen saw the south tower collapse and returned to the north tower to tell firefighters there to flee.

“We ran out of the north tower because of him,” Murray said. “He ran back through all the jumpers to grab us and rush us out.”

Chelsen will have a lasting lifesaving impact because of all the people he inspired to register as blood and bone-marrow donors, friends believe.

“The legacy that he’ll leave is opening the door for this blood bank to get massive amounts of people in,” said Pete Gleason, a former firefighter who was Chelsen’s lawyer. “It saved lives during his lifetime and it will continue to save lives.”

Chelsen, who lived in Warwick, Orange County, died peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends about 6 p.m. yesterday, Gleason said. He is survived by his wife, Trish, and son Christopher, 24.