First they battled 9/11-related illnesses — and now they’re dead from the coronavirus.
Dozens of emergency first-responders and others who were stricken with underlying illnesses linked to their work around Ground Zero have succumbed to the pandemic, a top victims’ lawyer told The Post.
“It’s a perfect storm,’’ said Michael Barasch, whose law firm represents thousands of 9/11 survivors, responders and victims’ kin enrolled with the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund.
“The most common 9/11 illness was respiratory disease,” Barasch said. “Your immune system is shot.
“COVID attacks everyone, but the most vulnerable are those with respiratory illness who can’t fight the virus. … It shouldn’t surprise us that so many in the 9/11 community are getting COVID and are unable to fight it.
The lawyer with Barasch McGarry said 98 of his clients who recently died either contracted or are suspected of having gotten COVID-19 and that t killed them.
He said he expects the virus death toll among his clients to rise, too, making this year’s somber 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on Manhattan’s World Trade Center even more grief-filled.
People in the 9/11 community are scared because they can’t fight it off. They are literally scared to death,” he said of the virus.
According to Barasch, those with 9/11-related illnesses who died from COVID-19 include:
– Michael Hankins, 69, a retired marshal from the Addisleigh section of Queens who was diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and died from the coronavirus April 2.
Hankins responded to Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks and spent weeks at a makeshift morgue near there documenting evidence, such as recovery of body parts or other material, to help identify the dead.
During that time, he met his future wife, Victoria Burton, a retired police detective, who also performed the same gruesome task for the NYPD.
Burton told The Post that her husband’s health “went south very quickly’’ after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Before then, he had been healthy enough to referee sporting events, she said.
Burton said 2020 was going to be the year for the couple to travel together.
“You make plans, but nothing is guaranteed,” she said sadly.
– Arthur Lacker, 72, a driver for a construction company who spent two and a half years helping clear debris from Ground Zero, only to develop lung cancer and asthma and then die of COVID-19 on April 22.
“Artie was a young 72,” said his wife, Robin Lacker, noting he was still working before contracting the virus.
She said she could not see her husband after he was hospitalized with COVID, given the ban on visitation during the peak of the pandemic.
“The only time I saw him was on a Facebook chat to say goodbye,’’ she said.
“What Artie went through was horrendous,’’ Lacker said — as she urged New Yorkers to “be respectful of other people. Wear a mask’’ amid the virus.
– Beatrice Granberg, 79, who worked as an administrative aide at Standard & Poors near the WTC and was exposed to toxic air for months before developing lymphoma, then dying from COVID-19 on May 9.
She died two weeks after being released from a nursing home on Staten Island after treatment for her cancer, said her daughter, Lisa Venosa. The daughter said she believes her mother contracted the coronavirus while at the nursing home.
“My mom survived 9/11, and then she got lymphoma, and then she got COVID. We still are in disbelief,” Venosa said.