No police department or law enforcement agency has ever suffered like the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) suffered on September 11, 2001. The 37 Port Authority police officers killed in the line of duty that day at the World Trade Center (WTC) is the greatest, single loss of police officers in the history of American Law Enforcement. This profound distinction is one that is acknowledged by the PAPD with reverence, noble respect and solemnity.
The morning of September 11, 2001, a beautiful, late summer break of day, began as many before for the PAPD’s WTC Command day tour platoon; police officers were turned out from roll call, posts were taken and the business of policing the vast World Trade Center complex was handed off by the police officers of the midnight tour of duty. Some would say, “Business as usual” but, no one imagined what was about to happen.
The police officers of the PAPD WTC Command were the first of the first responders that day as they are at all Port Authority facilities and, certainly, as they were on February 26, 1993, when terrorists detonated a truck bomb in the public garage below One and Two World Trade Center. Port Authority police officers immediately entered the Towers, ascended to the highest reaches, rescued people and administered aid to those injured while Port Authority police officers from commands throughout the Port District and first responders from the New York/New Jersey region started to descend on the World Trade Center. The greatest rescue in our nation’s history was taking place, eventually saving more than 25,000 lives but, it came at a terrible cost.
At the end of the day the world learned of the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, including 37 Port Authority police officers, 23 New York City police officers, 343 New York City fire fighters, paramedics and a chaplain and 12 federal and state law enforcement officers. Four hundred and fifteen first responders perished so others would live. There is no greater love.
The pain, grief and sadness were palpable as Port Authority police officers gathered for 37 funerals while they worked a minimum of twelve-hour days with no time off in the immediate aftermath of September 11th. Extended hours with little time off lasted more than two years and caused a tremendous strain on officers and their families but, Port Authority cops are resilient; they carried on, secured Port Authority facilities, insured the continued movement of commerce in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area and protected millions of people each day. Though the fabric of the Port Authority Police Department was horribly damaged it remained strong and became stronger as the PAPD entered the new world of counter-terrorism law enforcement while it continued as one of America’s leading law enforcement agencies.
We will always honor and never forget all those lost at the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon and on a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We will also forever honor and remember the sacrifices of those who have since succumbed to September 11th rescue and recovery related illnesses.
The men and women of the Port Authority Police Department are proud of their knowledge that it is a distinct honor to serve as a Port Authority police officer. They also know they patrol the most terror targeted public facilities in the country yet, each willingly swore a sacred oath to uphold the Constitutions of the United Sates, New York and New Jersey and, most importantly, to protect all.