ENGLEWOOD, N.J. -- David Margules is on a mission.
The Englewood resident, who was among a handful of photographers allowed in the pit of Ground Zero documenting day after grueling day of the recovery effort -- has turned another tragedy -- that of first responders getting ill from the toxic dust -- into an effort to secure free alternative treatments.
According to Margules, who himself has leukemia because of his exposure to the debris from the site, there are 5,400 responders that have cancer and l,800 have passed away. "We're talking more than 60 percent of that population," he said.
While much is covered under the Zadroga Act, a law named after James Zadroga, a NYC police officer who died of a respiratory disease attributed to his rescue and recovery operations in the rubble of the World Trade Center, Margules said alternative plant-based and detox treatments need to be included.
"Our country has enough drugs," he said. "What we need is help defraying the cost of alternative therapies for purposes of building our immune systems." He said he is using plant-based programs and detox therapies that have done wonders for him since his diagnosis three years ago --- though he's paid out of pocket. "I'm doing better than most," he said.
Margules said his story has become an inspiration for NYC resident Monica Iken, the founder of September's Mission , a nationally recognized nonprofit devoted to building a positive and meaningful legacy out of the events surrounding 9/11. "I'm a bit of an activist now," he told Daily Voice.
Despite his diagnosis -- and the emotional and physical ups and downs he's suffered as a result of those fateful September days -- he has no regrets.
"Even knowing I'd get cancer, I'd do it all again," he said. "That's how you get through bad times -- by reaching out and helping your fellow brothers and sisters."
Margules will be with his extended "family" on Sunday. Sept. 11 at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as names are read. His photographs are on display there as well as at other institutions around the globe including the New York Historical Society, the Smithsonian and countless others.
At the time of the disaster, Margules was a former stockbroker turned amateur street photographer who was granted unprecedented access to what was essentially a crime scene. He was there for nine months and got to really know people he previously had never had contact with -- fireman, policemen, sanitation workers, EMS laborers, and so on. "We became quite a fellowship," he said.
Margules said it was his job -- and his privilege -- "to capture the human spirit at its finest." His book, "From Dust til Dawn," published in 2004, documents much of that time.
Being at the Memorial on the 15 year anniversary shooting more photos is, he said, a continuation of his journey. "My work is beginning all over again so that Monica can distribute funds so that first responders don't have to worry about paying for alternative therapies," he said. "I feel strongly this is something only someone on the inside -- who has been there with them and gotten sick alongside them -- can understand and do.
"It's my goal that my photos continue to open the door to bring attention to this important cause."
For more information, go to www.septembersmission.org/ .