Scores of family members of NYPD officers who died recently of 9/11-related illnesses jammed into the Hall of Heroes at police headquarters Friday for a poignant ceremony as 47 names were added to a memorial tablet.
In a two-minute address to the crowd, Commissioner James O’Neill acknowledged that police work was fraught with danger. “We all knew the risks when we took this job, we understood them and so did our families and loved ones,” he said. “But that doesn’t make the day any less painful.”
The 47 names were those of NYPD officers who died as a result of their work on Sept. 11, 2001, at Ground Zero, or the Staten Island landfill recovery operation, which sought to identify human remains. Among those who died in 2017 and 2018 from sickness attributed to their recovery work were former Chief of Detectives William Allee, who directed the landfill work, as well as officers of various ranks.
The names were placed on individual plaques that had been affixed to a special tablet for the Sept. 11 losses. More than 224 names were on what is now two tablets. The number of names is expected to grow as various illnesses take their toll.
“These names are also a reminder that the tragedy of Sept. 11 has not ended for us,” O’Neill said, “for our families or our great city. We lost so much that day.”
The 9/11 losses are memorialized in an area in where other tablets pay tribute to more than 1,000 officers who died over the years.
After O’Neill ended his remarks and as a solitary violinist played the theme from the film “Gladiator,” the 47 names were individually read. Then, O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the two memorial tablets dedicated to the Sept. 11-related deaths.
Officer Marie Patterson-Bohanan died in 2017 at age 56 and left a special legacy: Her two daughters, both Suffolk County residents, are NYPD officers, the latest in three generations of city police. One daughter, Crystal Kingston, 31, works as an instructor at the Police Academy, while sister Victoria Patterson-Bohanan, 33, is assigned to the 73rd Precinct in Brooklyn.
For the Long Island family of Officer Scott Gaines, who died in 2017 at age 62 from cancer, the day brought up deeply felt emotions. Gaines' widow, Karen, was accompanied by other relatives including her husband’s brother Mitchell of Merrick and sister Lisa Ryan of Hicksville.
“It is very hard,” Karen Gaines said as she struggled to compose herself. “But it is important that we remember the dedication and commitment he lived his life for and the sacrifice he made.”