SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Nearly 19 years after 9/11 the tragedy still continues to unfold for the responders at Ground Zero. On Saturday, a former Unified Fire Authority firefighter from Cottonwood Heights became the latest victim of the attack.
UFA colleagues remember 31-year department veteran Chris Cage as a fire engine driver, an honor guard volunteer, a father, a grandfather, and an avid skier.
“Great heart, wonderful attitude,” Captain Mike Greensides said Monday. “He had a smile that was almost infectious.”
Capt. Greensides and Cage were part of Utah’s Task Force One that went to Ground Zero to recover bodies from the rubble of the World Trade Center. Both men knew that the air they were breathing there was potentially hazardous, partly because of the horrendous stench.
“I say it’s a combination of rotting meat, the most stinkiest garbage can you can ever imagine and a really stinky garbage fire is what it smells like,” Capt. Greensaides said. “I’ll never forget that smell and so we know that there’s a lot of different stuff happening.”
This summer Cafe suffered from back pain and went in for tests.
“During those scans, they found other areas that had tumors,” Capt. Greensides said. “He was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer…The bad thing with this cancer is that it metastasizes very quickly. Six weeks from when he learned that he had cancer to when he passed away. Very rapid.”
It turns out that other members of Task Force One have also been stricken. Fire Captain Robin Pilcher died of 9/11-related pancreatic cancer in 2016.
“We’ve had others who have had prostate, testicular cancer, another person has brain tumors going on,” Capt. Greensides said. “I myself have had kidney cancer. Last year on May 20th. I had my left kidney and a large tumor removed.”
Capt. Greensides says he’s healthy now except for the pain of losing his friend and colleague Chris Cage.
“He loved life. He loved his family,” Capt. Greensides said. “It was evident that he had a greater sense of duty and trying to give back.”
As of Monday afternoon, funeral arrangements for Cage were still pending.