Fifteen years later, most Americans can remember exactly where they were or what they were doing the moment they heard the news of the 9/11 terror attacks. Everyone recalls this day a little differently. For Terrence Jordan, a retired FDNY Lieutenant and 9/11 first responder, it was the day that changed his life in more ways than one.

On the frontlines

Alongside thousands of New York’s heroes, Jordan spent three consecutive days sifting through the toxic wreckage and shoveling through the ruins. Since the attacks, Jordan has suffered a host of pulmonary-related conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, severe emphysema, bronchitis and lung nodules.

In the years following the attacks, experts have learned more about how the smoke and debris affected the health of first responders and other survivors. Those who stayed in the area and breathed in the dust and smoke have been found to be more at risk for a host of health problems, including cancer, mental health disorders and gastrointestinal diseases.

PROUD TO SERVE: Despite contracting serious medical conditions as a result of the wreckage, Jordan wouldn't change anything about his time as a first responder. Photos: Courtesy of FDNY

Despite Jordan’s assortment of health issues, he doesn’t regret his time spent in the FDNY. “Helping people is a very fulfilling career,” he shares. “I’d do it all again if I had the opportunity.”

In an effort to take control of his well-being, Jordan joined a pulmonary rehabilitation program in 2013, which he credits for saving his life. “I was at the point where I couldn’t even walk half a block,” he admits. “But after taking pulmonary rehab for quite some time, I was able to recover a lot of my strength."

Markers of progress

In 2014, with the support of friends, family and doctors, Jordan completed the 13th Annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk. The event honors firefighters and military who have been seriously injured and sacrificed their quality of life in the line of duty.

LIFE AFTER:  Through intense rehabilitation and recovery, Jordan was able to get back the bulk of his strength he lost to his illnesses. He lives each day to the fullest with his wife and his family.

“I had to connect my oxygen machine to my walker, but I was able to finish the entire walk,” Jordan says. Along with the help of Dr. David Prezant, who helped him pinpoint the appropriate balance of rehab and medication, Jordan has a new lease on life:

“I’m very blessed and fortunate to still be here, whereas a lot of other people aren’t. I’m very thankful.”

Today Jordan is married with seven children and four grandchildren. His advice for patients who might be struggling with a health condition? “Live your life to the fullest. Enjoy your family and friends,” he adds, “because it could be taken from you in the blink of an eye.”