Port Authority Police Mourn Own
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NEW YORK (AP) _ Thirty-seven Port Authority police officers died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a loss of uniformed personnel second only to the Fire Department of New York.
Five of them were found just this weekend, next to the body of a woman they apparently were trying to rescue.
But as John McAusland solicits donations for the officers’ families, he finds people unaware of the massive loss or barely aware of the Port Authority police at all.
McAusland has been to dinners honoring the heroes of Sept. 11 where the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey isn’t even mentioned. He’s driven by billboards thanking the New York Police Department and Fire Department _ but not his agency.
So far, McAusland, counsel for the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, has raised less than $7 million for its Survivors’ Fund. The amount, McAusland acknowledges, seems discouraging at times.
A firefighters’ union collected $132 million for the families of the 343 firefighters killed at the World Trade Center; another fund for families of city firefighters and police has raised more than $82 million.
The Port Authority owns the site on which the trade center was located, and had offices in the twin towers. It manages the bulk of the transportation system between New York and New Jersey, including a network of tunnels and bridges, a bus terminal, a shuttle train, and Newark, LaGuardia and Kennedy airports.
To be sure, the families of the Port Authority employees will be taken care of _ they are receiving gifts from other charities, including the $145 million Twin Towers Fund. But McAusland’s struggle indicates how the agency’s officers have been forgotten in the coverage of Sept. 11.
``It bothers me,″ said Authority Police Chief Joseph Morris. ``We all lost a lot, but no police department in the history of this country ever lost that many people in one day. When our guys aren’t recognized, it does hurt.″
The Fire Department of New York, which has more than 11,000 firefighters, lost 343 on Sept. 11. Twenty-three officers from the 40,000-strong New York Police Department were killed.
Morris was appointed both chief and acting superintendent after James Romito and Fred Morrone were killed Sept. 11. In addition to two of its top brass, the Port Authority lost police officers from every rank, from rookies to 30-year veterans, and from 11 of its 13 precincts.
Thirty-eight non-uniformed employees of the Port Authority also were killed in the attack.
During the weekend, the bodies of five Port Authority police officers were found in the rubble of the lobby of the north tower, the second to collapse, beside the body of a woman still strapped in a rescue chair.
``Even under those extreme conditions, rather than just flee for their life, they still were in the process of trying to help someone else, someone who clearly was not able to get out on her own,″ said Lt. John Ryan of the Port Authority police.
The remains of 16 authority officers killed on Sept. 11 have now been found.
Morris, McAusland and Port Authority police officers say they do not want to detract from the tributes paid to city firefighters and police.
But they say Port Authority police also helped save trade center workers. With 1,300 officers, it’s a close-knit department, and almost every officer has either an academy classmate, a former partner or a close buddy who died.
``You want to be recognized, not for the notoriety. You want it for the family members,″ said officer Anthony Croce, 32, whose badge was torn from his uniform in the scramble to lead people out of the trade center. ``We lost 37 people, 37 great cops. We just want their families to feel they aren’t forgotten.″
Part of the problem is the lack of knowledge. There’s never been a ``NYPD Blue″ about the Port Authority. Even many New York-area residents do not understand what it does.
Police officer Ed Finnegan, 38, had ligaments and an artery in his arm cut by flying debris. He lost his partner, Uhuru Houston. He never minded working in relative obscurity _ until now.
``I feel slighted because everybody uses our airports, they cross our bridges, our tunnels,″ he said. ``They don’t realize that on that day we lost 37 people.″
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