About a year ago, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton looked out at the modest crowd attending the annual gathering at the police memorial wall in lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center site and decided that in 2016 there would be a “signature event” to mark the occasion, remembered an aide.
On Friday, with only a week left on the job, Bratton got what he wanted as police pipe and drum bands from around the country and Canada, including those of the Nassau and Suffolk police departments, marched through lower Manhattan to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11.
According to Det. Kevin McDonough, bandmaster of the Pipes & Drums of the Emerald Society of the NYPD, the march was the largest gathering of police pipe and drum groups in 103 years in the United States.
The parade down Broadway included 16 bands, 30 antique police cars and scores of families from the 23 police officers who died in the terror attack and the more than 120 who succumbed to illnesses believed to have been triggered by rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero.
Bratton and his wife, Rikki Klieman, police commissioner-designate James O’Neill and city public advocate Letitia James were among those who led the marchers as they walked about a mile to the memorial wall on Liberty Street. Before the wreath laying, Bratton told the crowd about the qualities of bravery and sense of duty shared by those who died.
“We must remember the thing that sent them into the smoke, that caused them to work the pile for many weeks and months after, we must remember the optimism and hope for a better world, we must remember their dreams,” Bratton said.
The most emotional speaker was Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch, whose voice broke as he spoke to the families of the officers who died about the pain associated with each anniversary.
“When those of us who survive go home to our families and when we can finally let down our shoulder, we will put our heads down and pray for your families and ours,” an emotional Lynch said. “We are going to let the air out of our proud chests and we are going to cry.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio offered the city’s thanks and condolences to the families of those who died. Among those families attending was that of Det. Stuart Fishkin of New Hyde Park. He worked at Ground Zero and died in 2015 of pancreatic cancer at age 49.
“I remember my dad as the person who was always there to help everybody,” Fishkin’s daughter Faith told reporters later.