- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2002

A dozen Port Authority officers spent the night at ground zero continuing recovery efforts as they have for eight months. Then, forgoing sleep, they donned dress uniforms yesterday and drove to Washington to honor the nation's fallen law enforcement officers, including many of their own.
The New York Port Authority, with 1,000 officers, lost its director and officers of all ranks because their office was located in the World Trade Center. "We had to come," said Bill Haubert, a retired Port Authority officer and part of the recovery team, who hasn't attended the memorial service since 1978 when he was almost killed.
"It was too painful. But we knew these fellows. And it has been a healing experience," he said.
Speaking to the officers and family members of slain "heroes" at the 21st annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the Capitol yesterday, President Bush said the nation "will never forget" their sacrifice.
A total of 140 police officers nationwide were feloniously killed last year in the line of duty, including 71 officers who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks on America, according to preliminary statistics released yesterday by the FBI.
"We call all those we honor today, those who lost their lives on September 11 and those who lost their lives before and after September 11, heroes because they are heroes," Mr. Bush said. "America cannot fully repay our debt to them and to the families. We can only acknowledge that debt, which we do today with pride and affection of an entire nation."
Holding a shield of Port Authority police Officer George Howard, who was killed on September 11, Mr. Bush acknowledged the special sacrifice on what he called "the saddest day in the history of law enforcement."
"His mother gave me this badge," he told the solemn group. "She gave it to me in love for George, but she gave it to me because I'm confident she wanted her president never to forget what took place."
The 71 officers killed during the suicide strike on the World Trade Center in New York included 37 officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, 23 from the New York Police Department the largest department represented five from the New York Office of Tax Enforcement, three with the State of New York Unified Court System, one fire marshal with the New York City Fire Department, one U. S. Secret Service agent and one FBI agent.
Mr. Bush told of the final moments of New York Port Authority police Officer Dominick Pezzulo's life as he lay trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center, calling to a fellow officer to "just remember me."
"So, Dominick, today we remember," he said.
"It was a loss unlike any we have known before all in one moment, all at one place," Mr. Bush said. "Their families are proud of them, and always will be, yet there's not a husband or wife here today or a parent or a child who would not trade the honor to have them back.
"America is grateful."
The FBI said 69 other police officers were killed in incidents across the country not related to the events of September 11, including 28 in the South, 18 in the West, 14 in the Midwest and three in the Northeast. Six officers were slain in Puerto Rico. The total for 2001 was 18 more than those who were killed on duty in 2000.
Thousands of officers from Illinois, California, Minnesota, North Carolina and everywhere in between saluted each other and wore pins from fallen comrades. Police officers came from as far away as England and Germany to pay tribute to the American officers.
"There is a common bond," said Steve Morris of the Leicestershire Constabulary, one of 40 to make the trip from England.
Baltimore police had a large contingent of officers. This year was particularly poignant because of fellow Officer Michael Cowdery, who was shot and killed last year.
"He was a friend," said Detective Taras Hnatyshyn. "I had to pay my respects."
He said that until September 11, the nation didn't realize that police officers aren't the "bad guys."
"We work for the people," he said.
The ceremony included N.Y. Police Department Officer Daniel Rodriguez, pop star Marc Anthony and a roll call of slain officers by state.
Port Authority Officer Rick Steneck said he came "because of the 14" he knew.
"I came to hear their names read," he said. "It will be the last time someone speaks their names publicly."
Afterward, many officers walked to the nearby law enforcement memorial and searched the wall of engraved names for the slain officers they knew. Many left pictures, notes, teddy bears and wreaths in tribute.
Port Authority Officer Rick Petillo scanned the names of his fallen colleagues and stopped to trace a few on paper.
"It is hard looking at them," he said. "It is hard to believe our names aren't on there, too."
He and his colleagues still dwell on the rubble of the World Trade Center and it is difficult to get closure despite ceremonies such as this one.
Jerry Seper contributed to this article.


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