On Sept. 11, 2001, NYPD Lt. Theresa Tobin was caught in the collapse of the South Tower. As debris fell, shards of glass sprayed into her back and a piece of concrete pierced her special ballistic helmet before lodging in her skull.
Miraculously, Tobin, now a deputy chief, was among the fortunate first responders who survived. On that day, she got to an ambulance, but because the shards of glass in her back were so painful, she sat inside on a bench and told rescuers to use a stretcher for a news photographer with a broken leg.
On Monday, paintings and drawings depicting the heroic acts of Tobin and other NYPD first responders — which hung in the U.S. Capitol during the Zadroga hearings — were displayed at a ceremony at police headquarters.
Tobin and families of first responders who either died in the attacks or from illnesses contracted while working at Ground Zero, attended the event, as did artists who worked on the project with the Society of Illustrators.
The eight works were first displayed in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol during the final debate before the renewal of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. The bill extended compensation for ailing first responders.
“I can’t tell how impressed I am that these were hung in the rotunda for passage of the Zadroga bill,” said Tobin, who was assigned to the NYPD’s press office at the time of the attacks.
Tobin, 54, of the Rockaways, said she was impressed not only by the drawing of her by illustrator Jess Ruliffson, but that it was used to help so many first responders.
The works also include short stories about the actions of those depicted in the paintings.
When the works hung in the Capitol, they served as a reminder to members of Congress and the public about the day’s unique tales of tragedy and survival, said Catherine McCay Hughes, who helped organize the art project as chair of Manhattan’s Community Board 1.
“That was at a very critical point, when we weren’t sure whether the Zadroga bill was going to pass or not,” Hughes said.
Monday’s event was important because it put the “artists in the same room with officers and family members,” she said.
In addition to Tobin, others from the NYPD depicted in the panels are officers Ramon Suarez, Judith Hernandez, Frank Macri and John Ryan, as well as detectives Patrick McGee, Scott Straus and George S. Taylor. Former Deputy Chief Steven Bonano is also featured in one of the works.
Suarez, of Queens, died in the North Tower. Macri and Bonano died from 9/11-related illnesses. According to the notations on their paintings, Ryan and Taylor contracted illnesses from their work at Ground Zero or the Fresh Kills landfill, where NYPD members sifted through debris.
A separate panel lists the 23 NYPD officers killed on 9/11 as well as 83 who died from ailments attributed to their work after the attack.
The art display will be permanently housed at the Police Academy in College Point, Queens.