Sunday, September 10, 2006

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ...

...- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." ~ Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863
Though he spoke of the Civil War that our country fought against itself and the brave men who died fighting for what they believed in, I feel that Mr. Lincoln's words apply also to the brave men and women, firefighters and police officers, that died in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

I can't list them all but as a 9/11 tribute, I wanted to profile three who gave their lives in service to others. As a former police dispatcher, I have chosen three at random who were in law enforcement. I wish there was room to list all of those who gave that "last full measure" but more than that, I wish there was no one to list.

New York City Police Department

His life reads like a Hollywood movie script. Officer Perry was a tall, handsome, intelligent man who spoke five languages. Before joining the NYPD he served in the National Guard and later earned his law degree. Raised in middle-class comfort, John chose to live in a Manhattan housing project under a special program that provides low-cost, in-city housing for police officers.

At age 38, John was ready to retire from the NYPD and start his own law practice. On the morning of September 11, 2001, he was at 1 Police Plaza putting in his retirement papers when word came that a plane had slammed into the World Trade Center. Like so many other officers that day, John stopped what he was doing and raced to the scene.

John became part of a group of rescuers in the north tower lobby who directed hundreds of people to safety. He was there until the very end, helping people as the tower came down. John Perry died as he had lived, a hero to the very last day of his career.

New York City Police Department

Moira Smith introduced herself to her future husband, James, another NYPD officer, by grabbing his Yankees cap off his head and tossing it across the squad room. But beneath the Brooklyn native's fun-loving exterior was the heart of a thoroughly professional cop devoted to serving others.

One of the occasions Moira showed that devotion was after the deadly 1991 subway crash in Union Square. Moira was awarded the NYPD's prestigious Distinguished Duty Medal for helping to save dozens of lives.

Her second medal--the NYPD Medal of Honor, her department's highest award--was given posthumously. On 9/11, Moira was seen carrying people out of Tower Two, then going back in for more. At least two newspaper photographs recorded her final acts of heroism. Moira, 38, left behind her NYPD husband and a daughter, Patricia. The little girl was just two when she lost her mommy--and America lost a hero.

New York City Police Department

Shot three different times in the line of duty, Joseph Vigiano was one of the NYPD's most decorated officers. He was also one of its bravest, returning to duty after each incident.

Heroism runs in the Vigiano family. Joseph's father, a retired New York City firefighter captain, had been read his last rights twice during his own career, but survived. His brother John was also a New York City firefighter, and Joseph's wife, Kathy, was also a police officer.

Joseph and John were the only children of their parents, as close as two brothers could be. Both served as volunteer firefighters in the town where they grew up and were now raising families of their own. Both also responded to the call on the morning of 9/11. Both died together in the collapse of the Twin Towers. Joseph's body was found one month later, and removed with a full honor guard. John's remains were never recovered.

For more stories and pictures, please go to the Roll Call of the Fallen Heroes of the Thin Blue Line on 9/11 at the National Law Enforcement Memorial website.


  1. Anonymous9:14 PM EDT

    I think your post is great. I'm glad someone is paying tribute. What I don't understand though is why so much attention is always placed on the law enforcement that lost their life that day. I'm not saying they don't deserve it but it seemed like right after the attacks that all the charities were set up for law enforcement. Why isn't more attention payed to the people on the planes or in the towers. When you enter into a law enforcement career losing your life is a unspoken risk. When you get into a career as a stock broker that really isn't a risk you think about. I'm not taking anything away for the officers that lost their lives that day. I'm just asking why not pay the same respect to ALL those who lost their life that day. Thanks for reading my rants.

  2. Amber, you bring up a very good question and, to be honest, I don't really have a very good answer except maybe this one ...the people who were working in the Twin Towers on 9/11 had no idea what had happened to them, they were in the building when the planes hit so they couldn't see what was going on outside but the people who came to the rescue, or at least attempted to, KNEW what they were getting into.

    Granted - when you become either a firefighter or police officer that's all part and parcel of the job but there are A LOT of men and women who get into the careet only for the "glamour" but when push comes to shove - they can't be counted on to rush into a burning building or repeatedly put themselves in danger. Honestly, it's a lot to ask of a person - to risk your own life to save someone else's. Not everyone is up to that challenge even if they originally thought they were. Fear can be an overwhelming thing - those that conquer it at critical times are true heroes.

    That's not to take anything away from the stockbrokers or office workers or any of the people who were at work that day but maybe the other reason people seem to want to concentrate on the people who repeatedly ran into the burning buildings was because there were just SO MANY already in the buildings. The numbers are overwhelming.

    I guess maybe a little of what it comes down to is victims and rescuers - and it's always tragic when the rescuers also become the victims. The people on Flight 93 were both, as were a lot of people in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and even on the three planes that crashed into the buildings. Victims became rescuers and rescuers became victims.

    And you're right, Amber, respect should be paid to all 2,977 people who lost their lives that day. The victims - the rescuers - everyone.

  3. Nicely done, Linda.

    Your blog was an appropriate and timely reminder of those who exemplify the word "Selfless". I also liked your explanation to Amber's question. Well put, wise friend.

  4. Thank you for posting the sketches of these three men and women. My heart goes out to the families and friends of each of them, as well as the family and friends of all the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. Your response to the first comment was very diplomatic, and I must say I would've been much more hot-headed if the same sentiment was conveyed to me. I am sorry that you had to justify this great post.

  5. Thank you but I don't see it as having had to justify the post so much as to try to explain why it seems that most of the attention is paid to the First Responders versus the people in the buildings or on the planes. I don't think Amber meant to be offensive, I think she was asking a legitimate question and looking for some clarificaiton.

    Maybe another thing I should have said is that in times of disaster we all need heroes to focus on. The firefighters and police officers and emergency medical personnel who willingly went into those Towers gave us someone to proud of on a day when just being human wasn't enough.

    The terrorists who flew those planes into the Towers and the Pentagon and - thankfully - into a field in rural Pennsylvania exemplified the WORST in humanity but the people who rushed to rescue their fellow men and women exemplified the BEST in humanity. We can't all BE them but we can all certainly thank them and remember them for the sacrifices that they made.

    “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

    Those First Responders who died on September 11, 2001 were exactly what that piece of Scripture is all about. God bless them all and the families they left behind.

  6. What a wonderful tribute Linda. Very well done. :)


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