Thomas Wilson IV understands 9/11 in a way many of his classmates at SJC Long Island do not.
“My dad was a first responder,” said Wilson, 21, a junior majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management with a concentration in Hotel Management. “He was an NYPD Sergeant on 9/11, and he patrolled the Williamsburg Bridge. And he got cancer.”
His father, now 53 and also named Thomas, was diagnosed in 2008 with cancer related to his Sept. 11 work. The elder Wilson spent nearly 350 hours at Ground Zero and later at Freshkills Landfill on Staten Island in the months following the attack.
Now retired, Thomas Wilson III said he’s since had a third of his tongue removed and rebuilt using a series of grafts from his wrist, he told WCBS Newsradio.
“It was rough,” the younger Wilson said. “He had to go for a couple surgeries, and he still goes to doctors for checkups and such, but he’s getting better.”
The Bellport resident, who boasts a GPA of 3.8 and is in a program at the College for students on the autism spectrum, received a scholarship on Thanksgiving of $5,000 per year from the First Responders Children’s Foundation.
A Scholarship for His Studies
Wilson’s grant is one of some 700 scholarships created in memory of NYPD detective Luis Alvarez of Oceanside, who died of cancer related to his Ground Zero work.
Wilson, who was a sister and three brothers, said the scholarship alleviates financial stress.
“It’s helping me get through school without worrying about money,” said Wilson, who hopes to land a job in hotel management after graduation. “It helps me get through my days easily knowing my stuff will be taken care of.”
Wilson’s younger brother Ryan, 19, also received scholarship money from the First Responders Children’s Foundation for his studies at Syracuse University.
Thomas Wilson IV shares more than just a name with his father — they both enjoy history and played high school football.
“My dad’s a great inspiration,” said Wilson, who hopes to travel the world one day in his future career. “He’s always inspiring me to do good things.”