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Suffolk PD ceremony honors 3 fallen officers who served on Sept. 11

Chris Stahly pays respects Friday to his brother-in-law

Chris Stahly pays respects Friday to his brother-in-law Dennis Reichardt after a memorial service at Suffolk County police headquarters in Yaphank. Credit: Veronique Louis

Suffolk Police Sgt. Dennis Reichardt never thought twice before heading toward the smoldering pile at Ground Zero.

Reichardt, known by colleagues as a "cop's cop," raced toward the ruins in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, with members of the department's Emergency Services Section, desperately looking for survivors. The Mattituck resident, who spent weeks clearing the rubble, would pay a stiff price for his selflessness. 

In April 2017, Reichardt was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and on Oct. 4 of last year, he died from the 9/11-related illness at age 64.

"Even if he had known, he still would have gone," said Jean Reichardt, 60, the sergeant's widow and herself a retired Suffolk police officer. "It's just the kind of guy he was. It's what he was trained to do. You do as much as you can."

On Friday, the Suffolk Police Department added the names of three members to its memorial stone — Reichardt, Sgt. James Farrell and Det Stephen Mullen — all of whom died from cancer after working at the World Trade Center site. In total, 25 Suffolk police members have died in the line of duty since 1960.

Suffolk Police Chief Stuart Cameron called the ceremony the "most solemn day of the year" for the department.

As a young captain on Sept. 11, Cameron was directed to assemble lists of personnel to send into Manhattan to assist the NYPD. The biggest challenge, he said, was trying to select among the overwhelming number of officers who volunteered to work at the pile.

"They now join scores of other law enforcement officers who died that day or its aftermath — an aftermath that seems unending, continuing to take the lives of good people," Cameron said during a 40-minute ceremony outside Suffolk police headquarters in Yaphank. "These three officers braved that danger to do what police officers do: help people."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called the fallen officers "three heroes to our county; to our country and to their families. … We are dedicated to making sure that what they did is always honored and remembered."

Farrell, an Army veteran who spent 23 years with the department, was affectionately known as "Inspector Gadget" for supplying his own equipment when funding wasn't available while serving as a supervisor in the Motor Carrier Safety Section, said Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart.

He responded to Chelsea Piers on 9/11 to assist with lights and generators for the emergency trauma and first-aid center that was being established.

Farrell, who had retired to West Virginia, died in December 2017 of colon cancer at 61, the first member of the department lost to complications from a 9/11-related illnesses, officials said. 

"He will be remembered for his dedication to this department and his commitment to traffic safety," Hart said. 

The memorial ceremony for officers who have died in the line of duty was filled with police pageantry. The Emerald Society Pipe Band played "Amazing Grace" while three police helicopters rumbled overhead. Wreaths were laid in honor of the three officers, by the heads of the Suffolk police, detective and superior officers union. 

Patricia Mullen said her late husband of 27 years would have been embarrassed by the pomp.

Det Stephen Mullen spent 26 years with the First Precinct in West Babylon, earning 25 career commendations. In 2000, he was honored with the Meritorious Police Service Award after responding to a small plane crash near Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. The Massapequa resident was able to rescue the pilot, as well as two passengers still trapped in the rear of the aircraft.

In the days after the 2001 attacks Mullen was part of the "bucket brigade," passing debris from person to person. He was diagnosed with cancer of the salivary glands last summer and died last December at age 55. 

"We had a wonderful life," said Patricia Mullen, 52, a secretary at Freeport High School, as she wiped away tears. "I love and miss him. There's a huge void in my life."

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