By John Tozzi
Borja's own log, which all patrol officers are required to keep, shows that he first recorded working a shift at the World Trade Center on Dec. 24, 2001 and worked a total of 220 hours between then and April 27, 2002, his wife, Eva Borja, said Tuesday. The New York Times reported Tuesday that parts of many news accounts of Borja's time at Ground Zero appear to be inaccurate, based on interviews with his family and records. Borja's story made national headlines when he died as his son attended the State of the Union address and later met with President Bush.Eva Borja said she never told reporters her husband went to Ground Zero immediately, and in the turmoil of her husband's illness and death, she had no time to call newspapers to correct inaccuracies.She also said she believes Cesar Borja's pulmonary fibrosis was connected to the World Trade Center.”What matters is that he was exposed to the toxic dust and that he passed away, that he died at age 52,” she said.Many reports, including some in this newspaper, described Borja as working on the pile of rubble in the immediate days after the Sept. 11 attacks. On Jan. 18, the TimesLedger reported that Borja “worked for months clearing rubble at Ground Zero” and that “on Sept. 11, 2001, Borja was among the thousands who rushed to Ground Zero.”The report was based on a telephone interview with 21-year-old Ceasar Borja Jr., who became the most visible member of the family during his father's illness and after his death on Jan. 23. Borja said his father worked 16-hour shifts three days a week for five months, but did not specify when those shifts began.Borja was a former smoker, and it was still unclear whether his death will be conclusively linked to Sept. 11. A spokeswoman for the city medical examiner said Tuesday that autopsy results were pending. Borja's story first appeared in the Filipino Reporter in late December, as his family was trying to get the ailing officer a lung transplant. The Daily News reported it Jan. 15, and other newspapers followed. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) said the revelations in The Times did not change the need to fund treatment for Sept. 11 workers. “If anything, his case is proof positive that everyone exposed to the toxins of Ground Zero deserves assistance – whether they were exposed on day one or 90 days later, whether they are a rescue worker or a resident,” she said in a statement.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 174.