December 28, 2001

Young NYPD Officer Had Grandest of Dreams

By Víctor Manuel Ramos STAFF WRITER

December 28, 2001

Just a couple of weeks before the World Trade Center attacks, an off-duty Mark Ellis was visiting another fellow police officer and his wife at their Commack home.

He held their days-old baby girl in his arms and, moved by the tenderness of her new life, decided to put his plans in fast forward.

Stephanie Porzio and Mark Ellis      

Ellis, 26, told his girlfriend of six years, Stephanie Porzio, that he wanted to marry her and have a family of his own. The next week, they would go shopping for rings.

They went to a jewelry store, but did not settle on anything because they wanted something that would properly symbolize what they felt for each other.

"He really just had a love for me, and I had a love for him that most people don't find," Porzio said.

That same Sunday, Ellis rode for the first time on the fishing boat he had purchased from his uncle. Other relatives were there, and Ellis was nervous about handling the 24-footer, but he drove it seamlessly on Long Island Sound.

With marriage plans under sail and his law enforcement career on track, Ellis felt he was about to create the life he wanted, surrounded by his friends and relatives.

But Ellis, a transit officer in downtown Manhattan's fourth district and a lifelong Huntington resident, was on Delancey Street two days later with partner Ramon Suarez, when they got frantic radio calls.

They commandeered a taxicab and arrived on time to help terrified people out of the World Trade Center buildings. Ellis' partner was caught in a news photograph sometime before the tower crashed, helping someone to an ambulance. Ellis sacrificed his life also, in the quiet and heroic way that relatives admired about him. His body was recovered before the Christmas Eve weekend, not too far from where his partner had fallen.

"Mark was making his plans to climb the career ladder, sail the Seven Seas on the boat, and God called him. He answered God's call, and he answered that call while helping others," said his uncle, Kenneth Nilsen, 40, who was among those who eulogized Ellis.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani attended the standing-room-only funeral Monday at the Dix Hills Evangelical Free Church, praising Ellis' courage. Ellis, who had received four medals for excellence, is the youngest New York City police officer to have been killed in the attacks.

Ellis' parents, Elaine and Joseph Ellis, and a sister, Tammy Gardella of Georgia, survive him.

In the weeks after he was missing, the call he had been waiting for came from the Secret Service, accepting him as a candidate to the elite force. Relatives saw that as a posthumous recognition to his dedication and valor.

A 1999 criminal justice graduate from SUNY Farmingdale, Ellis graduated from the police academy in 1998. Formerly an auto mechanic, he liked cars and the outdoors. But he was also a prankster at the station house, where he often walked around shaving with his electric razor before going on duty.

Once, to effect a funny revenge on other officers who had played a prank on him, Ellis bought glue and sealed the offenders' lockers shut. Another day, he conspired with his partner to stick fake bullet holes on the cars of other officers. By the same token, Ellis was willing to help whenever his colleagues, friends or relatives needed him.

"He was very fair and kind. and he was always there for me," said Eric Semler, his partner for more than three years. " ... He was a good cop, a very good cop."