New York Daily News

October 13, 2001

They Were Elite Cops, And People as Well

Rituals for two of city's Finest

Daily News Staff Writers

Maggie McDonnell with her children yesterday at St. Patrick's Cathedral, where 2,000 people gathered to mourn her husband, Emergency Service Unit Officer Brian McDonnell.

Two crack police officers, who survived danger in other parts of the world only to die in the World Trade Center attack, were memorialized yesterday in services at St. Patrick's Cathedral and on Long Island.

Emergency Service Unit Officer Brian McDonnell and Bomb Squad Detective Claude (Dan) Richards are two of the 23 city police officers presumed killed in the twin towers disaster.

Services also were held yesterday for 25 firefighters and three other cops who died Sept. 11.

As a sea of police officers stood 12 deep in brisk sunshine outside St. Patrick's Cathedral, McDonnell, 38, was eulogized for his determination to join the elite ESU.

A police officer since 1987 and a paratrooper with the Army's renowned 82nd Airborne Division before that, McDonnell joined the ESU last year.

"You had to see the look on his face that day," his wife, Maggie, told a crowd of more than 2,000 people. "He was grinning from ear to ear. It was a smile of happiness. It was the same smile he had the day he joined the 82nd Airborne unit, the same smile he had the day we were married, the same smile he had on the days our children were born."

The Rev. Michael McHugh, pastor of the Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in Long Island City, Queens, married the couple 12 years ago.

"Throughout the city, in different gatherings, families, friends and people have come together to ask, 'Where was God that day?'" the pastor said.

"Where was God that day? I think God was in all those brave men and women who ran in while others ran out. Lives were saved and lives were lost," he said.

Addressing Maggie McDonnell and the couple's children, Katie, 8, and Thomas, 3, McHugh said: "He lived for you, and now he lives with God. He was a hero on Earth so he could be an angel in heaven."

Concluding her eulogy, Maggie McDonnell said: "What we started together, I must now finish alone. I thank you for our children. I know that one day we'll be together again, walking hand in hand." Her words were met by thunderous applause.

At St. Raphael's Church in East Meadow, L.I., more than 1,000 friends, family and officers turned out for a memorial Mass for Richards

Debbie Popadiuk is given a flag during memorial service on Long Island for her brother, bomb squad Detective Claude (Dan) Richards, as her son Joseph watches.

A celebrated bomb squad detective who survived stints as an Army Ranger and as a member of the United Nations force in Bosnia, Richards was last seen trying to rescue people from 6 World Trade Center.

"He was the ambassador for the bomb squad," commented Inspector Dennis McCarthy. Of the 46-year-old bachelor, an 18-year veteran of the force, McCarthy said the bomb squad "was his home, its members were his family."

His relatives were at the Mass as well: his sister, Debbie Popadiuk, and his nephew, Joseph.

No matter where Richards was that day, said First Deputy Commissioner Joseph Dunne, he "would have found his way down to the World Trade Center."

Paying tribute outside the church, was an honor guard composed of bomb squad detectives, along with six bomb squad dogs with American flags around their necks.

As taps sounded, the dogs howled.