The New York City PBA on Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center by unveiling a Sept. 11 memorial wall in the union’s lower Manhattan offices.
The memorial includes the portraits of the 23 NYPD officers killed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and a plaque that pays tribute to the hundreds of cops who have died because of 9/11-related illnesses.
During a ceremony that included the families of deceased officers, PBA president Patrick Lynch said the "reason we put [portraits and names] on the wall is the next generation comes along and says ‘tell me about him. Tell me about her. Tell me about them.’ That is where we keep the spirit and the story alive. Yes, it is a moral obligation."
The portrait series, entitled "23 Remembered," was painted by Philadelphia police officer and forensic artist Jonny Castro. It was commissioned by Brothers Before Others, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization that provides support to families of fallen cops.
Among the dozens of family members and friends of deceased officers who attended Tuesday’s ceremony were NYPD cops Joseph Vigiano Jr. and James Vigiano. Their father, Det. Joseph Vigiano, of Medford, was killed in the World Trade Center attack. Their uncle, FDNY firefighter John Vigiano Jr., also died in the attack.
"One of the first things that stuck out for me personally was the attention to detail," said Joseph Vigiano Jr., who was 8 years old when his father died. "It got everything correctly down to his commendations and awards. It was pretty heartwarming to see my father be remembered 20 years later. The New York City Police Department still remembers the fallen."
NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes said the spirit of the 23 officers who died on 9/11 continues two decades later.
"Our fallen heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice during 9/11," she said, "but their courage and valor live on in the hearts of the NYPD, their families and the community of New York City."
Castro, who has memorialized more than 1,000 fallen cops, firefighters and members of the military, said he worked for about 170 hours on the portraits.
"I’ve never spent more time on a single project in my life," Castro said. "I’m both proud and honored to stand in the shadows of these heroes."
Lynch said police officers have a "moral obligation" to remember the 23 who died on Sept. 11.
"It is our job to make sure we don’t move on," Lynch told the cops and family members packed into a conference at PBA headquarters. "I think it is all of our jobs … as police officers to keep telling that story, even when it is uncomfortable, to say this is what happened and here is why."