The Suffolk County Police Department will add three names to its police memorial in Yaphank on May 10 — our first line-of-duty World Trade Center-related cancer deaths. They are Sgt. James Farrell, Sgt. Dennis Reichardt and Det. Stephen Mullen.
Since 9/11, several members of our department have been diagnosed with cancer related to their recovery work at Ground Zero and at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island. Fortunately, treatments have been effective for those who survive, although their lives have been irreparably altered.
While the number of people our department has lost pales in comparison with other police agencies, including the NYPD and Port Authority, each life is precious and every loss unique.
As a young captain on Sept. 11, 2001, I was directed to assemble lists of personnel to send into the city to fulfill a mutual aid request from the NYPD, something I had never imagined would come our way from the nation’s largest police department. My greatest challenge was trying to select from among the overwhelming number of our people who volunteered to work in the uncertain environment in and around the World Trade Center. I have no doubt that had we known the long-term health risks there, I still would have been overwhelmed with volunteers.
It is an unbelievable honor to have such fine people working for me, people who selflessly risk everything to help others in need whenever they are asked. They represent the finest in U.S. law enforcement.
Please never forget the incredible sacrifices of all of those who responded on that terrible day and during the recovery. Tragically, the evil that occurred that day sealed the fates of many valiant men and women, some immediately, others years later, perhaps some yet to come. I pray that no one else will suffer, but I fear that will not be the case.
Editor’s note: The writer is the Suffolk County police chief of department.