NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A local man is remembering his uncle who died months after cleaning up during the aftermath of 9/11.
He died from illnesses linked to the exposure of the toxic dust in the air from the attacks and he left behind an inside look at the Ground Zero aftermath.
Joseph Coan is his nephew who is from Brooklyn and now lives in North Charleston. He received several photos of the Ground Zero aftermath about 14 years ago, shortly after his uncle and then later his mother passed away.
After holding on to them for so long Coan felt the need to share them with others.
"Having these pictures means a bunch a whole bunch it really does and every time I look at them I'm proud of every fireman, every ambulance man, every police officer, national guard, everyone who had taken their time and dedication to help out," Coan said.
Coan's uncle was George Kern. He worked for the an electrical company, Con Edison, in New York. Kern used his vacation and leave time from work to help clean up after the 9/11 attacks.
"He got sick as he was doing it and he passed on and it's unfortunate," Coan said. "My uncle was best friend, my daddy, a whole bunch of things he was a great guy, great stand-up dude."
Kern died from cancer and other illnesses about six months after he first started volunteering. Studies show that about 1,000 people have died since 9/11 from illnesses linked to the toxic dust. Nearly 3,000 people died directly from the attack.
Coan was living in South Carolina when the attacks happened in 2001. He says he didn't think it was real at first.
"It actually hit me real bad because I thought people were just goofing with me, lying, they said you gotta look at the TV, gotta look at the TV," he said.
Coan says he is glad to have the photos in his possession. He says it can bring up a lot of mixed emotions from that time.
"It's anger you know and there's happiness," Coan said. "I see love and devotion and dedication of people there getting together...anger mostly."
He hopes these photos help people to remember the attack that happened 15 years ago.
"I don't know if they'll stir up a bunch of people, emotions that's not really what I'm wanting to do," he said. "I do want them to remember, that all of us never forgot about everybody who did the best they can for everybody and the tragedy that happened there."