DSNY remembers sanitation workers who lost their lives due to health complications from 9/11
A permanent memorial plaque for victims has been displayed in the lobby of DSNY headquarters.
Image courtesy of DSNY

DSNY remembers sanitation workers who lost their lives due to health complications from 9/11

While no sanitation employees lost their lives during the attack, in the 20 years since, approximately 100 DSNY personnel have died of conditions related to their service.

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September 13, 2021

The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) gathered for a private ceremony Sept. 9 to honor members of the department who lost their lives due to their service on and after 9/11. During the aftermath of the attack on New York City, approximately 3,700 DSNY employees were involved in clean-up, debris removal and processing at ground zero, at Fresh Kills landfill, and at other sites around the city. While no sanitation employees lost their lives during the attack, in the 20 years since, approximately 100 DSNY personnel have died of health conditions related to their service to the city during that period, DSNY says.

“We can never forget that the horrors of 9/11 didn’t end when the sun set that day. They continued for weeks, and they are still with us now, 20 years later. We owe it to these hardworking New Yorkers and their families to remember their sacrifice,” Edward Grayson, commissioner of the DSNY, says.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the DSNY’s sacrifices around 9/11, Grayson unveiled a permanent memorial plaque in the lobby of DSNY headquarters before the names of those lost were read aloud by current department leadership and staff.

In addition, the Sanitation Foundation—the official nonprofit of DSNY—launched a digital 9/11 exhibit at dsnyremembers.org. This exhibit tells the story of DSNY's contributions to the recovery effort, using personal interviews, never-before-seen archival footage, data visualizations, and resources for further learning.

Within the first 24 hours of the attack on New York City 20 years ago, 1,500 Sanitation Workers were deployed to ground zero to aid the recovery effort with debris removal, and the department dispatched more than 150 pieces of heavy machinery from its fleet to facilitate the process. This allowed some key downtown institutions to reopen as early as the following Monday.

Sanitation served at ground zero and lower Manhattan for 39 weeks, facilitating the city’s recovery. Materials management experts at Fresh Kills landfill processed as much as 17,500 tons a day, which led to the positive identification of more than 300 victims and secured evidence and artifacts, in coordination with more than 25 city, state and federal agencies. 

DSNY’s operations continued at Fresh Kills for 317 days after 9/11. A core team of approximately 200 employees, many trained in sophisticated crane equipment, worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with no days off until Thanksgiving 2001.

“Every single member of our department should be proud of the role we played in protecting the city after 9/11, and 20 years on, we must all remember those who are no longer here to share that pride with us,” Grayson adds. “They will always have a special place in our building and in our hearts.”

Photos of the Sept. 9 memorial event and the memorial plaque may be seen online, and a video of the event was shared on DSNY social channels on Sept. 11.