Shining a Spotlight on First Responder for 20th Anniversary of 9/11

November 11, 2021

Each September, our client the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) promotes Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month to raise awareness of pulmonary fibrosis (PF), a devastating lung disease affecting more than 250,000 people in the United States. This year’s observance coincided with the 20th anniversary of September 11, and the LCWA team was honored to help tell the story of PFF Ambassador and retired NYPD detective Tom Frey to help us shine a light on this disease.

Tom’s Story

Tom was a 9/11 first responder who was called to Ground Zero on that fateful day in 2001. Years later, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and then PF, all linked back to the toxic environment encountered during his 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts.

Tom is not alone. Officials worry that deaths of 9/11 first responders due to illnesses caused by Ground Zero will soon outnumber deaths to those who lost their lives that day.

Twenty years later – and despite Tom’s terminal health struggles – he works hard to drive awareness, research, and funds for a cure for pulmonary fibrosis.

Media Outreach

Leading up to September, we proactively pitched Tom’s story to national media outlets in hopes that we can educate others about this life-threatening disease. As part of these efforts, we secured national, top-tier broadcast, digital and podcast coverage in support of Tom’s heartfelt story.

  • MSNBC-TV: For a live segment marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Tom participated in a Zoom interview with other first responders and MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin, who was anchoring from the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville, Pa. You can watch the special MSNBC segment here.
  • Senior digital editor Corky Siemaszko spoke with Tom about his 9/11-related illness for an online article about the aftermath of 9/11, and how, two decades later, the nation continues to grapple with the aftermath of that day. You can read the online story here.
  • Associate editor Michael Hollan interviewed Tom for an online feature story about Tom’s experience and heroism on 9/11, along with his health journey since then. The article also highlights Tom’s advocacy efforts and work with the PFF, reassuring other patients that they’re not alone and help is out there. You can read the feature story here.
  • As a follow-up to a story she wrote about Tom in 2019, contributor Agnes Pawlowski reconnected with Tom to hear how he’s doing today and how he’s coping during the pandemic as a high-risk patient. You can read the updated story here.
  • Uninvisible Pod: For a special 9/11 podcast episode, host Lauren Freedman met with Tom via Zoom for a nearly 2-hour conversation about his 9/11 story, his PF experience, his work with the PFF, and special precautions he takes due to COVID-19. You can tune into the compelling episode here.

A true hero, Tom often says he would do it all over again tomorrow, even as he struggles daily to breathe and relies on oxygen. You can watch Tom’s heartfelt story by watching this video.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease that remains largely unknown and can lead to later stage diagnoses. With more than 50,000 new cases of pulmonary fibrosis diagnosed annually, it is imperative that we raise awareness of the disease and educate patients on all of their healthcare options – not only in September, but every day. To learn more, visit