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Thousands bid farewell to a 9/11 firefighter hailed for heroism on and off the job

NEW YORK CITY, New York-- Thousands of people lined the streets of New York City today to honor an American hero.

Ray Pfeifer was hailed for his heroism both on and off the job, remembered with laughter and tears at his funeral today. He was a New York City firefighter, a first responder who worked for months at the toxic Ground Zero. That selfless dedication led to a decade-long battle with cancer.

After September 11th, he spent 8 months digging through the rubble, in search of his lost department brothers, who ended up among the 343 firefighters who didn't survive.

Pfeifer lost a kidney and part of a leg to cancer, but he still made 14 lobbying trips to D.C., to support the 9/11 "Health and Compensation Act," a push to provide first responders with health care benefits.

Comedian Jon Stewart delivered the eulogy at Pfeifer's funeral today. "The irony here is Ray would have loved a day like today where people from all over-- town, city, the country-- pay respect to a man who did right," Stewart today the packed church.

Stewart lobbied with Pfeifer for first responder benefits. He says that even in his final days of hospice care, Pfeifer continued to raise money for sick first responders.

After 9/11, he carried prayer cards of many of the 343 firefighters who died on September 11th with him, to use as inspiration.

Pfeifer served more than 27 years with the New York City Fire Department. He was just 59 years old.

Doctors with the World Trade Center Health Program, which the federal government created in the aftermath of the attacks, have linked nearly 70 different types of cancer to Ground Zero.