FDNY Lt. Steven B. Reisman, a 23-year veteran from Roslyn Heights who worked on the Ground Zero pile searching for human remains during the recovery and cleanup efforts, has died of brain cancer. He was 54.
"He was a true warrior," FDNY Capt. Daniel Sambrato of Engine 73 in the South Bronx said of Reisman, who died Sunday. "We were down there together on the pile in all that dust and asbestos. It was snowing down on all of us."
Sambrato said Reisman was doing well until he started complaining of headaches around Thanksgiving of 2011. He said Reisman went to the doctor and was told he had brain cancer and just 12 months to live.
But Reisman did not give up. He sought out alternative treatments and coupled them with traditional cancer therapy, said his wife, Joanna Reisman. He had five brain surgeries and went to Europe for medical treatment, she said.
"It kept him healthy. He was a positive human being. He never felt victimized. The glass was always half full no matter what . . . throughout his whole life," she said.
In September, however, Reisman's cognitive abilities became limited. "I had to leave work as a schoolteacher to take care of him full time," his wife said, adding that her husband had been working as a volunteer at the New York City Fire Museum in Manhattan before a tumor on an optical nerve kept him from seeing through one eye.
"He was an incredible family man. We had a loving and caring marriage. He went down to Ground Zero because it was his duty. He did his job with an open heart. My husband lived each day with love."
Seventy-six firefighters and emergency medical service technicians have died of illnesses they contracted as a result of their work on the 9/11 pile, according to the FDNY.
"9/11 deaths are mounting and they are not only first responders, but tradespeople," Joanna Reisman said. "It is very, very sad. 9/11 is not over for many of us."
In 2000, Reisman received a citation for bravery when he saved the life of a 3-year-old boy when he lived in Douglaston.
"It was in the summer and we were all outside with our neighbors when one of the mothers ran out of her house screaming that her little boy was not breathing. My husband performed CPR and saved his life," Joanna Reisman said.
Besides his wife, Reisman is survived by his son, Michael, 17, and his daughter, Natalie, 14.
Funeral services are Tuesday between 2 and 5 p.m. at Sinai Chapels at 162-05 Horace Harding Expy. in Fresh Meadows. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Steven B. Reisman Memorial Fund.