For Port Authority Cops, A Sense of Loss Lingers

For the seventh anniversary of 9/11, The Chief took a look at a previously ignored group of victims: the Port Authority Police Department, which lost 37 members on 9/11, a proportionately high number of its limited ranks.

September 19, 2008

The Chief-Leader

For Port Authority Cops, A Sense of Loss Lingers

Fallen Colleagues Remembered

By Tommy Hallissey

Seven years removed from the terror of 9/11, Sgt. John Adorno chooses to
remember the tight-knit family of the Port Authority Police Department
as he acknowledges scenes of devastation at Ground Zero will linger forever in his
memory.

“It was a lot of mixed emotions,” he said on the steps of St. Peter’s Church
where the Port Authority’s memorial was held Sept. 11. “I worked there several times
before that but to see the smoke and rubble …”

‘Something You’ll Never Forget’

Sergeant Adorno said he knew all 37 of the Port Authority officers who died on
9/11, but was particularly concerned about one of his classmates, Officer Uhuru
Gonja Houston. “I was praying that I would be there to help them find him,” he
said.

He recalled being at Ground Zero when the ground was still hot and smoke
billowed out. “You would think that as the years go on you’ll try to forget, but this
is something you’ll never forget,” he said. “The first thing I think of now when you
say the World Trade Center is the devastation, not the new building. I will always
think of the devastation.”

Sergeant Adorno said the PAPD, whose members were close to begin with,
became even tighter after the terrorist attacks. Chief of Department Christopher
Trucillo agreed, saying, “The men and women of the Port Authority Police
Department, even while devastated with the single greatest loss of any police
department, worked tirelessly six days a week for 18 months. They did it in honor
of their 37 colleagues lost on 9/11.”

Superintendent of Police Samuel J. Plumeri Jr. said each year Sept. 11 is a trying
day for the Port Authority family. “We work hard every day to ensure this doesn’t
happen again,” he said.

‘A Universal Respect’

In an interview inside St. Peter’s Church, Mr. Plumeri dismissed any thought that
the Port Authority was not receiving enough attention given that more members of
its force were killed on 9/11 than from the NYPD. “I think there is a universal
respect that crosses every line of first-responders,” he said. “It’s much greater than
that. I am extremely proud every day of what [PAPD officers] do given the
challenges they face.”

In the months and years following 9/11, Chief Trucillo worked with PAPD
victims’ families after dealing with the loss of a relative who worked at Cantor
Fitzgerald.

“It’s an experience you wish you never had, but to see the caliber of
people, the families of the 37 victims, how they supported one another and how
they went through their own grief is something I’ll never forget,” he said.

Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine spoke at the memorial in the church on Barclay St. near Ground Zero.

“It’s a day for honoring the bravery of the first-responders who, without a thought to their own safety, rushed into the burning towers to rescue so many people,” the Mayor
said. “It’s a day for recalling how New Yorkers pulled together to comfort one
another, and then worked together to bring our city back. It’s also a day for
recognizing the great strengths of our city and our society, the strengths that
protect us from those who wish us harm.”

‘PA Keeps Doors Open’

He recalled a ceremony earlier in the day in Zuccotti Park where students from 90
nations that lost citizens on 9/11 read the names of the fallen. “It was a vivid
reminder that New York is the world’s most international city, and it underscored
the important mission of the Port Authority, on 9/11 and every day since then: to
keep the doors of New York open to the rest of the world, to promote trade, assist
in travel, and encourage the free global movement of people, goods, and ideas,”
Mr. Bloomberg said.

Governor Paterson spoke of the importance of remembering the fallen. “Socrates
once wrote a person lives as long as they are remembered,” he said. “We are going
to remember all of those whether in the state of Pennsylvania, the District of
Columbia or right here in Lower Manhattan.”

He said he would not be deterred in building the Ground Zero memorial — which
has been delayed by interagency disagreements. “We will continue to honor those
lost survivors, those families who have loved ones who lost their lives and those
who continue to be injured or suffering as a result of that day seven years ago
today,” he said. “We are going to rebuild this area. We are going to find a way to
memorialize those who lost their lives in the most proper way possible and we are
going to continue our civilization and our democracy just the way it has always
been.”