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Marvin Bethea On Responding To 9/11, Fighting For First Responder Health Benefits: 'I'm Proud That I Was Able To Serve Our Country'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Hundreds of first responders were called into action on 9/11.

Many died, but others survived to bear witness to the terrorist attack. One of them, a Queens paramedic, was there when both towers fell.

CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer interviewed the paramedic many times over the years as he waged a battle to get medical benefits for survivors. She spoke with him again to look back at 20 years since the attacks.

There are many pictures of Marvin Bethea after 9/11 - most with politicians. The paramedic drove one of the first ambulances to arrive at Ground Zero. He was also one of the first responders to get sick, and one of the first to join the years-long fight to beg Washington for money for health benefits.

Marvin is a mere shadow of his former self: 9/11-related illnesses have taken away his ability to swallow, and he has a feeding tube in his stomach.

Complete Coverage: 9/11 Twenty Years Later

"I would do anything to have a nice burger or a steak," he said.

Marvin Bethea Speaks With Marcia Kramer
(credit: CBS2)

Twenty years after 9/11, he takes enough drugs to open his own pharmacy for a long list of problems. But he has no regrets about that day, no regrets about responding to Ground Zero, or working on the pile the day President George Bush visited.

"You're proud of the service you were able to give the country?" Kramer asked.

"Oh yes, very proud," he said.

Marvin got to Ground Zero before the first tower fell.

"We got down there, and all hell broke loose," he said.

He was there as both crumbled to the ground. He was buried under debris in a bank just a block away, but got out and helped tend to others.

"You were covered in dust," Kramer said.

"We had no masks. We weren't thinking about ourselves. We were thinking about the public, so we gave all the masks we had to the public. That day we had no masks whatsoever," he said.

"Do you regret that?" Kramer asked

"No, I'm sorry that I'm sick... But I'm proud that I was able to serve our country on 9/11," Marvin said.

Some of Marvin Bethea's News Clippings
Some of Marvin Bethea's news clipping, documenting his fight for medical care for 9/11 first responders. (credit: CBS2)

"Ever regret that you responded to those calls?" Kramer said.

"No. I had a duty to act," he said.

Marvin won't admit it, but he is truly one of the unsung heroes of 9/11. He says when people ask "Where were you on 9/11?" he's glad he has an answer, puffing out his chest to say that he "Was able to be part of one of the most tragic days of American history."

Kramer has interviewed Marvin so many times, he even has a picture of the two of them together. She was honored that on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 he showed it to her and asked for an autograph.

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