September is a very significant month for law enforcement. Of course, we’ll always remember September 11, 2001, more commonly referred as simply “9/11,” the date when our country was attacked. For those of us in the profession, it also bears significance in that 114 of our LE brothers and sisters lost their lives either on 9/11/01 or from complications from the aftermath of the rescue and recovery efforts thereafter.
That’s right … 114, to date.
Most news outlets place the number at 60 police officers (23 NYPD and 37 Port Authority PD from New York and New Jersey). Some use the figure 72: The 60 aforementioned NYPD and PAPD officers; one FBI agent Leonard Hatton; a US Secret Service officer, Master Officer Craig Miller, a U.S. Army veteran who received two Bronze Star medals in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and who rushed over from his office at 7 WTC; U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Officer Richard Guadagno who was among the passengers who fought back on Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa.; plus five officers from the New York State Tax Enforcement Office and three from its Court Administration Office.
But if you factor in other federal agents, campus police officers, as well as the numerous state, county and outside municipal agencies from N.Y., Virginia, Connecticut, and D.C., the number is actually much higher, and it represents 20 separate law enforcement agencies, inclusive of the NYPD and the PAPD, not the customary 10.
Since 9/11, an Arlington County (Va.) police corporal, Harvey Snook III, who rushed to the scene at the Pentagon and never ceased his efforts to search for and recover victims even as his boots melted from the burning jet fuel, died as a direct result of exposure to toxins attributed to the crash of Flight 77. In addition to Corporal Snook, Connecticut State Trooper Walter Greene; two campus police officers, Montclair (N.J.) State University Sergeant Chris Vidro and City University of New York Deputy Police Chief John McKee, have also passed away, again from exposure to toxins connected with the rescue/recovery efforts after the attack.
Sgt. Vidro called his wife shortly after the planes struck the towers. He told his wife, Toni, “Don’t get mad, but I’m going over to the city to help.” McKee remained on the scene for a month. The Peekskill (N.Y.) PD lost Detective Charles Wassil Jr. who responded to the WTC scene on 9/11 and didn’t leave until four days later on 9/15/01. FDNY Fire Marshall Ron Bucca, a former US Army Green Beret, perished in the collapse of the South Tower while attempting to rescue victims trapped on the 77th floor. His remains were not recovered until October 23. The Nassau County (NY) PD lost an ESU officer, Charles Cole Jr., who passed on from illnesses directly attributed to the rescue and recovery efforts in the days after 9/11.
Eleven other FBI special agents in addition to S.A. Hatton have since perished along with one BATF special agent, William Sheldon; and two Deputy U.S. Marshals, Ken Doyle and Zack Toro Jr. The ASPCA lost an officer, Special Investigator Diane DiGiacomo, who volunteered to assist in the recovery of injured or missing animals at and around the Trade Center site, and passed away from cancer attributed to toxins from the WTC scene.
Since 9/11, eleven N.J. State Police officers and seven NYSP troopers have also perished, as have N.Y. County DA’s Investigator Fred Ghussin and two Yonkers (N.Y.) PD officers, Lieutenant Roy McLaughlin and Officer Anthony Maggiore, all having died from illnesses directly attributed to toxic exposure from their work at the Trade Center site.
The month of September has been a significant month in law enforcement for a long time notwithstanding 9/11, and for positive as well as negative reasons.
On the plus side, September 24, 1789 saw Congress pass the Judiciary Act of 1789 and which created the U.S. Marshals Service, our first federal law enforcement agency, with President George Washington appointing the first 13 Deputy U.S. Marshals. The U.S. Parks Police followed two years later in 1791.
September 1968 saw the first two female police officers in the U.S. assigned to work the street as patrol officers. Indianapolis (Ind.) police officers, Betty Blankenship and Elizabeth Robinson, after meeting with their chief, were assigned to work as patrol officers, transferring from admin assignments to the patrol division.
And on September 13, 1994, Public Law 103-22 authorized the American Flag to be flown at half-staff on May 15 of each year as recognition of Peace Officers Memorial Day.
The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) was formed in September 1976 with then-police chief Hubert Williams from the Newark (N.J.) PD being elected as its first president.
On the negative side, on the evening of September 8, 1900, a massive hurricane struck the Gulf Coast at Galveston, Texas killing 8,000 people. The Galveston (Tex.) PD lost more than half its officers in that storm. Four were killed together as they attempted to rescue several trapped families.
September 9 – 13, 1971, saw seven N.Y. State Correctional Officers killed during the five day Attica State Prison riots. The first was William Quinn, who was beaten to death when nearly 1,300 inmates took control of the maximum security prison; the remaining six were murdered throughout the next four days.
Three years later, on September 20, 1974, Officer Gail Cobb of the MPD in Washington, DC was shot and killed while attempting to apprehend a robbery suspect. She was the first African-American female officer to die in the line of duty.
As we reflect on September 11, 2001, let’s not forget the highlights as well as the lowlights of this most significant month.
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
Facts and Figures