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Those Who Suspect They Have World Trade Center-Related Illnesses Urged To Sign Up For Government Programs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- On Tuesday the country will mark 17 years since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Many people who were in lower Manhattan that day and for months after the cleanup are still getting sick.

Michael O'Connell is a retired FDNY lieutenant. He searched for survivors on and after 9/11, but had to retire in 2007 when he got sick with a rare auto-immune disease called sarcoidosis.

"It attacks my joints. It attacks my skin. I got lesions all over my body," O'Connell told CBS2's Cindy Hsu recently.

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He said it's a World Trade Center-related illness that some of his colleagues have died from.

"A lot of people. It does get into your vital organs. It gets into your lungs. It gets into your heart and sarcoidosis can kill you," O'Connell said.

9/11 First Responders
Firefighters make their way through rubble and debris after the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. (Credit: Getty Images)

Dennis Murphy was an NYPD officer during 9/11 and was diagnosed with cancer last year.

"I now have cancer in seven places. I'm waiting for a biopsy report from Thursday of last week. They believe it's in my liver and my bones now," Murphy said.

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The tragedy of 9/11 continues as many people get sick, years after the attacks, and we're not just talking first responders. Everyone from school children to office workers have reported becoming sick from World Trade Center-related illnesses over the years.

So many organizations are trying to get the word out that anyone who was in Manhattan south of Canal Street on 9/11 or for the next few months should sign up for two government programs, even if you have not gotten sick. The first one is September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which distributes money to victims who have suffered.

"Anyone south of Canal Street who has a certified health condition can qualify for compensation in our program," Victim Compensation Fund administrator Rupa Bhattacharyya told CBS2's Hsu.

The second organization is the World Trade Center Health Program.

"They are the medical program that's intended to monitor and treat people who are suffering from World Trade Center health-related illnesses," Bhattacharyya said.

You can sign up for both programs online. The key is to get diagnosed early and to never forget many are still suffering.

To find out more about the programs, please click here and here.

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