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NYPD uses Twitter to honor its 9/11 victims

Eddie Reyes places an American flag on the

Eddie Reyes places an American flag on the names of fifteen of his colleagues in the New York Police Department Emergency Service Unit who were killed on September 11, 2001. The NYPD is tweeting the names of every officer killed on 9/11 on the hour leading up to the 11th anniversary. (Sept. 20, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Most of the tweets on the official Twitter feed of the New York City Police Department concern the everyday business of policing: be-on-the-lookouts interspersed with crime prevention tips and traffic advisories.

But over the weekend, tweets of a different sort began to appear on the feed, @NYPDnews. "In remembrance of those we lost on 9/11 & afterwards due to 9/11-related illnesses, an hourly tribute to each of the fallen" read the first, with the label, called a hashtag, "#neverforget."

That was about 6 p.m. Saturday. By Sunday afternoon, more than a dozen tweets bearing the #neverforget had appeared on the feed.

One of the first was for an Oakdale man. "Police Officer Glen Pettit, Police Academy | End of Tour: 9/11/01," it read, with a link to a Facebook page bearing his picture and a brief biography.

Twenty-three NYPD officers were killed on 9/11. Some of the thousands of first responders who worked in rescue and recovery at Ground Zero developed fatal illnesses.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Sunday that the department, while new to the social-messaging platform, will use Twitter to commemorate fallen officers alongside traditional means, such as reading the names of the dead at each station house around the city.

The tweet memorializing Pettit went out to the NYPD's 40,235 followers. By Sunday evening, 25 people, each with many followers, retweeted the NYPD's post to more readers.

A commemorative tweet of 140 characters or less can't capture a person's life, of course.

But Pettit's sister, Deirdre Kroupa, 44, of Islip Terrace, said the family supported any effort that might lead his friends or co-workers to get in touch with details about her brother's life and death. "Eleven years later, hearing a new story would be great," she said.

Pettit's mother, Jane Wixted, 68, of Ronkonkoma, reached by cellphone as she was returning from a 9/11 memorial Mass in Brooklyn, said she didn't know much about Twitter, just that it had something to do with computers. But, she said, "We want to keep his memory alive, that's for sure. I guess the best way to do that in the 21st century is through the computer."

Then she offered an epitaph for Pettit fit to be tweeted: "I'm proud to say he's my son."

With Anthony M. DeStefano

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