9/11 Stories: Dr. Kerry Kelly

Whenever FDNY’ers hear the name Dr. Kerry Kelly, they smile and call her an angel. Kelly, the first woman ever to hold the job of Chief Medical Officer of the FDNY, knew on 9/11 that the air was unsafe. She says when you could not see the air in front of you after the collapse of both towers, you knew this would result in cancers down the road. She remembers it was discussed that very day: the consequences of breathing in that toxic dust, but what shocked her was how quickly the cancers came. Dr. Kelly figured the 9/11 cancers would come in 20 years, but the health issues started in short order. Dr. Kelly and her team had the foresight to start doing medicals on all FDNY’ers the month after 9/11 and documented the deterioration of their health. That documentation was pivotal, leading ultimately, to free lifetime health care for 9/11 victims and compensation for their illnesses and deaths.

On 9/11, Dr. Kelly quickly drove in from Staten Island, where she was making rounds with her private patients in the hospital. Her first inkling of the depth of the devastation was the site of molten cars and jetliner debris on the West Side Highway. As she made her way to the closest firehouse to get a helmet, she not only saw more debris but also the sad spectacle of body parts on the ground. Dr. Kelly survived the collapse of both towers and survived both of the dust clouds...the clouds that turned day to night. Her son, a sophomore at Harvard, didn’t know for hours if his mom was dead or alive until he got an email from his dad. Dr. Kerry’s son is “Saturday Night Live” star and head writer Colin Jost. Not as lucky was Jost’s future SNL co-star Pete Davidson, whose dad, Scott, was one of the 343 FDNY’ers killed that day.