Howard Hull – Rider, Survivor and 9/11 First Responder
First-time Pelotonia Rider Howard Hull was a bit overwhelmed by the experience.
“It was an amazing thing for me to see so many people working together, all these concerned people coming together,” Howard said.
Working together to save lives is something important to Howard, 51, a retired NYPD Senior Detective Investigator.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, he was in his office at Six World Trade Center. Howard was part of a federal task force that investigated financial crimes and focused on stopping money laundering by drug cartels.
When the two hijacked airliners hit the World Trade Center, Howard and his fellow officers did what cops do.
“All the communications equipment for the area was on top of the World Trade Center,” he said. “So we didn’t know the scope of what was happening. We heard, at first, that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center.”
It soon became apparent that something a lot worse had happened.
“We realized buildings around us were collapsing,” Howard said. “We went back in and tried to get people out.”
And for the next month, Howard and his team – financial crime experts, not trained rescuers – stayed at the World Trade Center, pulling people and bodies out of the rubble.
“That first week, we didn’t have any special rescue equipment, no masks or special clothing,” Howard said, adding that he and his fellow first responders were exposed to all sorts of dangerous materials. “The dust was so think that if you held out your arm, you couldn’t see your hand.”
In the years following 9/11, a disproportionately high number of first responders were hit by a wide variety of illnesses and ailments, including cancer. Howard was diagnosed with glandular cancer in 2009.
“They try and do what they can for us and they set up a program at Mount Sinai (Hospital in New York),” Howard said. “They track us and monitor us and study us. They’re not 100 percent sure what to expect, but they’re learning from us. We were exposed to jet fuel, mercury, human remains, asbestos and so many other fibers floating in the air.”
Howard’s cancer is under control and “I try and eat healthy and exercise.” He runs in marathons, and is now a Pelotonia Rider. He learned about our ride from Matt Finkes, a former Ohio State football star who is captain of the Cancer Crushers Peloton.
“Matt was involved in supporting 9/11 survivors and first responders and that’s how we met,” said Howard, adding the two ran the New York Marathon together. Matt told him about Pelotonia, and Howard was in and on another important team.
“For me the challenge was finding enough time and the right places to ride,” said Howard, who lives in Rockland County (just north of NYC) and is now a consultant who specializes in anti-money laundering investigations, such as stopping terrorists from gaining access to funds. “Next year I’m going to train a lot more.”
Despite his lack of training, and lots of hills, Howard rode the 180-mile route. At the top of his long list of highlights was meeting and chatting with so many fellow cancer survivors.
“When I talk to my oncologist, I ask if I’m cured and they tell me I have stable cancer disease,” Howard said. “That’s a good answer, but I want to hear yes, your cancer is cured. And that’s why, when you have something like Pelotonia and there are so many people who care enough to do something about cancer, it can be overwhelming to someone like me.”
Steve Wartenberg is a journalist, cyclist and longtime Pelotonia Rider. Steve is one of just a handful who have pedalled every mile of every Pelotonia. This year he is going above and beyond his fundraising efforts as a High Roller! email@example.com.