The Chief
September 20, 2002

Two 13th Precinct Cops Remembered

‘Part of the Family’

By Deidre McFadyen

Outside every stationhouse across the city on the morning of Sept. 11, cops gathered to observe a moment of silence and remember the 23 NYPD officers who died a year ago in the massive rescue effort that saved thousands of lives.

The ceremony was particularly poignant at the 13th Precinct in Gramercy Park, which lost Police Officers Moira Smith and Robert Fazio. Also killed was Police Officer Brian McDonnell of Emergency Service Unit 1, housed in the same building on East 21st St.

Part of Community

Cops started quietly gathering in the leafy street shortly after 8 a.m., talking in subdued tones. In a wider ring around them were dozens of community residents and cops from San Francisco, Detroit, Los Angeles and Houston, all of whom had turned out to pay their respects.

“The community is part of our family here,” observed John Flynn, the Manhattan South trustee for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “They walked in on Sept. 11, and they stayed.”

Remarking on the new esteem for cops felt by civilians in the wake of the tragedy, the Rev. Thomas Pike, from Calvary Church, told those assembled, “We are experiencing a renewal of the importance of duty and sacrifice. Those values were not easily won and won’t be easily maintained.”

After a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. – when not a whisper broke the stillness and eyes began to tear up – Deputy Inspector Patrick McCarthy, the precinct’s commanding officer, read a message from Police Headquarters and then make his own remarks to the rows of uniformed police officers standing at attention.

“We lost more than fellow police officers on that day,” he said. “We lost husbands, wives, mothers, sisters, uncles and friends.”

To his left on tripods were two American flags fashioned from blue violets, and white and red roses and carnations, with a banner across each reading, “To Moria and Bobby, From Your Family at the 13th Precinct.”

“I think about them every day,” said Police Officer Maureen McGigue, who has spent her entire 13-year career at the 13th Precinct, which she called “the home I never left.”

Pictures of the pair hang in the stationhouse. The officers also have their own private memories.

Police Officer Ambioris Pena said he remembered in particular the year when Officer Smith and his wife were pregnant at the same time. Both gave birth to daughters, who are now three years old.

Mr. Pena took off his cap and showed the prayer cards of Ms. Smith and Mr. Fazio that he always carries in an interior plastic sleeve.

Unsung Heroes

While taking nothing away from the heroism of Ms. Smith and Mr. Fazio, Police Officer Dorothy Aiello complained that her fellow officers who acted with bravery in the hours after the attack and then worked around the clock at Ground Zero were not properly recognized.

“The bosses down there were all given commendations and medals, and everybody else was sort of ignored,” she said.

Officer McGigue struggled to express how time over the last 12 months seemed to both expand and contract. “Some days it seems like it went so fast, and some days the year took forever,” she said.

Capt. Timothy McCarthy of the 13th Precinct Detective Squad described the same contradictory sensation this way: It seemed like the shortest, longest year.”

The squad’s Detectives spend much of the past year sifting through remains at the Fresh Kills landfill, the repository of the rubble from the Twin Towers, and at the morgue near Bellevue Hospital.

“We did 12-hour tours on top of a mountain of garbage,” said Det. Mark Murphy. “There were no trees, no buildings, nothing to block the sun or rain. But you’re out there because you have a job to do.”

Even as they mourned the loss of their colleagues, cops expressed a yearning for the return to familiar routines.

Officer McGigue said she has fought hard to maintain her equilibrium to protect her three children, ages three, five and eight. “I try to make it as normal as possible for them,” she said.

But life, the officers admitted, will never be quite the same.

Officer Pena said that he is much more vigilant than a year ago. “Before then, you never thought anything like this could happen,” he said. “Now, you think about it every day. They say they’ll hit you when you least expect it.”