Judges, clerks, court officers and others came together at the Kings County Supreme Court Wednesday in Downtown Brooklyn for a ceremony commemorating the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and the sacrifices of three court officers who died trying to rescue people from the Twin Towers.
Capt. William Harry Thompson, 51, of the Bronx, court officers Mitchel Wallace, 24, of Mineola, and Thomas Jurgens, 26, of Lawrence, rushed to the scene of the attacks from their posts in the Manhattan Supreme Court once the first plane hit. The towers collapsed on them. About 30 court officers helped in the rescue effort that day but they were the only ones killed.
"Each and every new class of officers that come in, we do something to remind them of these three officers," said Jewel Williams, chief of the Department of Public Safety for the Unified Court System. "We say 'This is what we want you to aspire to.' "
The ceremony, held in a different location every year to allow the entire court system to participate, began with a bagpipe-and-drum rendition of "Amazing Grace" and "America the Beautiful," followed by an emotional performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner" by court officer Thorance Scott. The only family members attending were Ken Wallace, Mitchel Wallace's father, and Bruce, his uncle, who did not talk to the press.
"Nine years after the attack, the healing process does continue, but the pain and the sadness of 9/11, particularly today, is fresh in our hearts," said Jonathan Lippman, keynote speaker and chief judge of the state of New York. "What gives us the strength to go on is remembering and honoring the ultimate sacrifice made by thousands of uniformed heroes like Harry and Mitch and Tommy and remembering why they made that sacrifice."
Also speaking were Barry Kamins, president of the Brooklyn Bar Association, and Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix, administrative judge for civil matters.
This was not the first time Mitchel Wallace was honored for heroism. In 2000, he performed CPR on Mark Ingberman, of Plainview, who went into cardiac arrest on the Long Island Rail Road.
After the ceremony, Williams teared up as she spoke of the two officers from Long Island. "Tommy was really young and eager to do the job," she said. "Mitch was a little older but just as dedicated. It's hard to put into words just how much this ceremony means. It's something we must honor every year."