October 13, 2001

Services Honor 3 Fallen Police Officers

By Leonard Levitt STAFF WRITER

The bells of St. Patrick's Cathedral began to peal at precisely 10 a.m. Friday. Down Fifth Avenue — which was closed to traffic — appeared a procession of the motorcycles, two abreast, followed by a dozen Emergency Service trucks. Then came the muffled drum roll of the bagpipers. They stopped outside the church as the family of police officer Brian McDonnell arrived.

McDonnell, 38, who died in the World Trade Center attacks, was one of three officers memorialized Friday in services in the city and on Long Island.

Police officer Walter Weaver, like McDonnell, a member of the elite Emergency Service Unit, was remembered at the Holy Family Church in Hicksville, and Det. Claude Richards of the bomb squad was recalled at a service at St. Raphael's Church in East Meadow. Saturday, police officer Paul Talty will be memorialized at St. Francis Church in Wantagh.

At St. Patrick's Friday, the church in which McDonnell was married 12 years before, the Rev. Michael McHugh said people have asked, "Where was God that day?"

He answered, "God was in those brave men and women who ran in when others ran out."

Of McDonnell, McHugh said, "He was in the [New York] Post yesterday. He got Fifth Avenue closed down today. I think he'd love it."

McDonnell's wife, Maggie, spoke of her husband's pride in his children, in his Irish heritage and in his career. She described how her husband became a police officer in 1987 after serving in the 82nd Airborne unit, then in 1990 moved to Tucson, Ariz., to join its police department. That July, she said, he returned, "realizing he had left his heart in New York City."

After several attempts, she continued, he was accepted last year into the Emergency Service Unit.

"What we started together, I must finish alone," she said. "What keeps me going is your love of life. Goodbye my love, the man of my dreams. ... I am so very proud to call you my husband, my best friend."

First Deputy Commissioner Joe Dunne then spoke to McDonnell's two children: Katie, born in 1993; and Tommy, born five years later. "Your daddy was a New York City cop," Dunne said, "and boy, was he proud of that fact."

He then told how McDonnell had been on a foot post at Carnegie Hall when Beverly Sills arrived in a taxi and tried to cut through the line of ticket holders. McDonnell stopped her.

"But I'm Beverly Sills the opera star," Dunne related she told McDonnell.

"Well, I'm Brian McDonnell the cop. So please stand behind the ropes."