The long list of names on the memorial plaque at NYPD headquarters dating back to 1849 lengthened Friday as the department in a special ceremony commemorated the lives of 15 officers who were killed in the line of duty or succumbed to illnesses related to their work on Sept. 11, 2001.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg told family members and officials, including NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, crowded into the foyer at police headquarters, that those being remembered had ancestors from all over the world. Police said Friday's additions mean 764 names are listed on the NYPD's "hall of heroes" memorial wall.
"They swore a sacred oath of service. Each never swerved from fulfilling it -- whatever the risks they faced -- and each gave their lives protecting the rest of us," Bloomberg said.
For two Long Island families -- those of Det. Peter Figoski and Officer Alain Schaberger -- the moment was bittersweet as the blue-and-black bunting was removed to reveal their names being added to the wall of honor.
"My brother was true hero, he was very close to all of us, and he will be sorely missed," said a very moved Robert Figoski, 52, of Babylon, whose brother was shot dead in December while responding to a robbery in Brooklyn. "I am glad that the department honored him in this way and put him on the wall."
"Proud," was how Figoski, a retired transit cop, said he felt when he saw his brother's name.
Paul Schaberger, 64, of East Islip also was proud to see his son's name on the wall. He and his wife, May, as well as their family, had a sense of kinship with the NYPD, he said. Alain Schaberger fell to his death on March 13, 2011, after a domestic violence suspect pushed him over a railing at a home in Brooklyn.
"It doesn't bring him back but there is a great deal of comfort involved in sharing it with 35,000 new family members," said Schaberger, alluding to the number of NYPD cops.
On May 2 George Villanueva, 43, was convicted in Brooklyn of involuntary manslaughter for the death of Alain Schaberger, who was assigned to the 84th Precinct, a verdict which the officer's father applauded Friday. Villanueva is to be sentenced on May 23 and Paul Schaberger has written a letter to officials telling them how his son's death has affected the family.
"It struck me as I was writing it [that] my wife and I will never actually have one complete happy day for the rest of our lives," he said.
"There's no telling how many lives Alain touched in his 10 years with the department, but we know there were many," Kelly said at the ceremony.