By Colleen Long
NEW YORK — Eight police officers who died from illnesses related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are recipients of the first distinguished service medals ever awarded by the New York Police Department.
Those honored included a detective whose medication use raised questions about the cause of his death.
Commissioner Raymond Kelly presented the medals Tuesday to the families of the officers. The officers' names have already been added to the department's wall of heroes at police headquarters and a police memorial in lower Manhattan.
"In the history of the police department there's never been an event like September 11th," Kelly said in his remarks to the families. "And there's never been a sacrifice like the one made by your fathers, your husbands, your sons, and your brothers. They were part of the greatest rescue effort in the history of the police department."
The officers honored included James Zadroga, who died in January 2006 and quickly became a symbol of ailing ground zero workers. He developed lung disease after spending hundreds of hours toiling in the World Trade Center's ruins.
A New Jersey autopsy concluded his death was caused by exposure to Sept. 11 dust. But the New York City medical examiner disagreed, saying the improper use of prescription drugs contributed to his lung disease.
The police department's medical board determined that Zadroga's death happened in the line of duty.
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Other officers recognized for their deaths of 9/11-related illnesses include James Godbee, an officer who died in 2004 of lung disease after working at the trade center site; Robert Williamson, a detective who died of pancreatic cancer a year ago; Detectives Kevin G. Hawkins and John T. Young and officers Angelo Peluso, Ronald E. Weintraub and Thomas G. Brophy.