New York Daily News

October 7, 2001

'God Called for Heroes To Rise Above Terror'

At memorial services, lives of attack victims mourned

Daily News Staff Writers

S he American flag was folded into a neat triangle and placed, three stars up, into the hands of a grieving mother. Buglers sounded taps and white doves flew skyward.

The memorial service for Police Officer Santos Valentin Jr. was the first of more than a score held yesterday to mourn those whose lives were lost in the carnage at the World Trade Center.

Keening bagpipes and muffled drums played "Amazing Grace" as more than 1,000 white-gloved police officers poured into St. Ann's Catholic Church in Brentwood, L.I., to pay their final tribute to the fallen hero.

  Gloria Valentin, mother of Officer Santos Valentin Jr. — missing in the WTC disaster — is comforted by her family.

An Emergency Service Unit sharpshooter, Valentin was a 17-year veteran of the force. His body has yet to be found amid the wreckage of the Trade Center's toppled towers.

"His family had 39 years to learn what an extraordinary person Santos Valentin was," First Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Dunne eulogized. "The Police Department had 17 years. The rest of the world would have one short day to learn that Santos Valentin was courageous, that Santos Valentin was caring and compassionate, that Santos Valentin was a hero."

Affectionately known as Papo, Valentin joined the force in 1984. During his career he earned two commendations, five meritorious service citations and four medals for excellent police duty.

In her eulogy, the fallen cop's sister, NYPD Sgt. Denise Valentin, said that on Sept. 11, "I believe that God called for heroes to rise above terror."

On the altar behind her, on a background of white carnations, Valentin's shield — No. 21630 — was re-created in red and blue flowers. The lectern bore a child's drawing of the World Trade Center and the words: "Dear unk: You are my hero."

Remembering 'Papo'

Addressing the fallen officer's family, Msgr. David Cassato, a police chaplain, recalled that on Sept. 14, President Bush had met them to express his condolences: "He talked to you so beautifully and said to your children, 'Listen to your mother.' And he said to you as parents, 'You have a hero.' We will always remember Papo as the wind beneath our wings."

Valentin had an associate's degree from the Academy of Aeronautics and was remembered for his love of fishing, whitewater canoeing and golf. But mostly, Valentin was remembered for his deep love of his work. His sister recalled that on an assignment to protect Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, Valentin posed as a rabbi. "He was New York's first Puerto Rican rabbi," she said, drawing laughter from the mourners.

In the church sanctuary hung a color photo of Valentin in casual clothes. Under it were the words, "I got my eyes on you."

In Park Slope, Brooklyn, more than 1,000 mourners filled Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church to bid final farewell to Firefighter Peter Vega, one of six members of Ladder Co. 118 killed at the Trade Center.

"They had no choice in their hearts when they got the call to duty," said New York City Trade Waste Commission Chairman Ray Casey, who represented the mayor at the service. "They leapt from their truck and ran in to save lives."

Mourners applauded when Casey said that Sept. 11 should be remembered not only for the carnage but "as something more — the day that the brave members of the New York City Fire Department participated in the largest and most successful rescue operation in history. Twenty-five thousand lives were saved that day."

Vega's wife, schoolteacher Regan Grice-Vega, recalled that before he became a firefighter, Vega had been an iron worker who took pride in showing off buildings on which he had worked. One was the Vista Hotel, badly damaged in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

On Sept. 11, "when those towers rumbled, he must have known what it meant," Grice-Vega said.

'So Full of Promise'

Arnold Lim, a 28-year-old financial analyst for Fiduciary Trust Co., International, was on the 92nd floor of 2 World Trade Center when the hijacked airliner slammed into the tower. Yesterday, friends and family gathered at Immaculate Conception Church in Manhattan's Stuyvesant Town to mourn his death.

"We are here to remember someone we lost when he was so young as a result of an awful evil," said the Rev. Joy Mampilly. "We feel like asking God why Arnold was taken from us ... so full of promise."

Among the mourners was Lim's fiance, Michelle Leung, who said that on the day before the attack she had seen him at a Borders bookstore in the Trade Center. "A new magazine had come out called Wedding Gowns and I said 'Get me this magazine.' That was the last time I saw him." They had set the date for the wedding: Sept. 15, 2002.

Mourners embrace during service for Cantor Fitzgerald employee Charles Waters.   

In Bethpage, L.I., friends and family gathered at St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church to remember Charles Waters, 44, a vice president of Cantor Fitzgerald, and one of 655 employees of the investment firm killed or missing in the terrorist attack.

Waters' remains have not been recovered.

Referring to Waters' wife, longtime friend Bob Zgorzelski said: "Barbara and I used to joke that we'd be the only two people at Charlie's funeral, because we were the only two who could tolerate him. Judging by this crowd, I guess we were wrong."

More than 500 people filled the church.

'Live for Your Father'

The hardworking bond broker was praised for commitment to his wife and three children, Charles, 14, and 11-year-old twins Jaclyn and Allison. Cousins and uncles remembered the passion for sports and music he shared with his son.

"We can truthfully say that Charles lives on and will continue to live on through our memories ... as a man his children called 'the best father in the world,'" said the Rev. Thomas Schmidt.