Five NYPD officers from Long Island who police say died last year of illnesses related to Sept. 11 were among 13 fallen members of service remembered Friday at the annual memorial ceremony at police headquarters.
As members of the NYPD band played the U.S. Navy hymn "Eternal Father," two officers with the police ceremonial unit raised a black and purple curtain and revealed 12 of the names on a bronze memorial plaque. A separate plaque unveiled honored a fallen civilian member.
Standing at attention in front of the plaque, each with a right hand over the heart, were Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton. They were among a group of a few hundred dignitaries, police officials and family members who filled the memorial lobby of One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan.
The memorial plaque is reserved for NYPD officers who either died on Sept. 11, 2001, or are believed to have developed illnesses from their work at Ground Zero. It contains 91 names, with space to add others. Other plaques on the wall honor officers who died in the line of duty as far back as 1854.
"We were there for them in life, we remain here for them in death," Bratton said in brief remarks before the unveiling, underscoring how the NYPD remained part of an extended second family for officers.
Officials said that all the officers died of Sept. 11 illnesses, except for traffic enforcement agent Kalyanaratne Ranasinghe, 71, who was killed in a traffic accident while on duty in November. Ranasinghe's name is included on the special memorial plaque reserved for civilian members of the NYPD.
The Long Islanders remembered were Det. John F. Kristoffersen, 50, of Lindenhurst; Det. Tommy L. Merriweather, 49, of Bay Shore; Det. Traci L. Tack-Czajkowski, 47, of Huntington Station; Officer Francis Pitone, 55, of East Meadow; and Officer Karen E. Barnes, 45, of Hempstead.
Kristoffersen was assigned to the Brooklyn north homicide squad and had made 700 arrests in his career. Merriweather worked in the firearms suppression division and retired from the department in 2009. Tack-Czajkowski was assigned to the drug enforcement task force and made more than 170 arrests before retiring in 2006. Barnes served with the housing police and during her career made more than 120 arrests. Pitone also served with the housing police and retired in 2005.
After the ceremony, the perimeter of the lobby remained lined with fragrant floral displays, donated by various police unions and fraternal groups, which will stay in place for several days.
As the crowd dispersed, family members such as Pitone's sisters, Susan Baione of Michigan and Linda Harvey of Texas, took the time to take photographs of the names on the plaque.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect middle initial and age of Det. John F. Kristoffersen of Lindenhurst, based on information provided by the NYPD.