COVID-19 brings extra concern to local 9/11 first responder

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — On the morning the Twin Towers were hit in New York City, Syracuse native, Marsha Krell, was at work and picked up the phone to call the American Red Cross.

Krell had been a Red Cross National Responder for years, volunteering in the aftermath of the 1998 Labor Day Storm. So, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place, she sprung into action.

The following day she and three other volunteers drove in a van to Manhattan, and spent 10 days helping on the front lines as a licensed clinical social worker. 

After returning from Ground Zero, Krell developed severe respiratory issues from the toxins. 

“I think it was 2003, I suddenly had trouble breathing… it went on from there slowly over time,” she said. 

Krell has been treated for these respiratory conditions, but says they have worsened as she’s gotten older. 

“You don’t notice it until you can’t do what you want to do,” Krell said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it forced Krell out of her job temporarily at Crouse Hospital because she is more at risk for the virus, due to her respiratory conditions. She self-quarantined from February to April and said she depended on her children to bring her food and other essential items. 

“Really it was terrifying to leave the house,” Krell said. “I wasn’t willing to take any chances because… between my age and my health, I considered it a death sentence.” 

Krell is extra cautious out in public because of her condition and only wears the N-95 masks, which also make it more difficult for her to breathe. 

She was able to return to work over the summer, but when cases started to rise again, she decided to stay home for her own safety. 

“The fact that I was a 9/11 responder, you know I don’t throw that around,” Krell said. “I don’t say, ‘well wait a minute, you don’t understand.’ I just, you know, my lungs are compromised, I can’t stay here.” 

However, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for Krell, as she said she will be among a group of first responders getting vaccinated for COVID-19 Monday at Upstate Medical. She hopes to return back to work after her second dose. 

Krell urges her community members to continue to remain vigilant in doing their part to keep themselves and others safe from COVID-19. 

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