The week of October 20-27, 2001, will forever be etched in the minds of nine Miami-Dade officers and one city of Miami officer. This contingent of law enforcement professionals volunteered their own time and shared expenses, making the commitment to travel to New York City to assist our brothers and sisters with the New York City Police Department and the Fire Department of New York in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster.
Many of the participants have ties in the area and felt compelled to provide whatever assistance they could render. In addition, numerous professional relationships had been nurtured throughout the years, which enabled the officers to establish several contacts and have an itinerary set up prior to our arrival.
Our first exposure to what was ahead occurred as we flew in to LaGuardia Airport and observed the remnants of the WTC. It was a somber sight, even viewed from a distance. The remainder of the weekend was spent acclimating ourselves to the area and locating our friends with the NYPD; establishing points of contact and receiving logistical support and directions. We felt prepared for the coming week and were all anxious to do our part.
For two days we worked long hours into the evenings at the Staten Island landfill, where all the rubble from the WTC was being transported. Our main assignment consisted of physically raking through debris looking for body parts; personal belongings; sensitive types of documents; and the “black boxes” from the aircraft. This was tedious, and at times, overwhelming work.
Being a landfill, we were required to wear hazardous material suits; helmets; goggles; gloves; and boots. The sights and people encountered there were really indescribable. One of my lasting impressions occurred during our rest breaks. There was essentially no talking, just the 10 of us sitting there contemplating our own thoughts, trying to cope with the enormity of this disaster.
The following two days we actually took part in the rescue/recovery operation at “ground zero.” We stood by while huge cranes worked through the vast amounts of debris. When it was determined that possible remains had been discovered, the heavy digging ceased and we went in with other emergency services personnel and literally dug by hand in the hopes of recovering someone.
This was extremely emotional; especially as you watched the NYC personnel react. Almost all of them had lost friends or relatives and had been present at the site since September 11th.
On Friday, at the request of our NYPD brethren, we attended the funeral of two brothers killed at the WTC; one a firefighter and the other a police officer. In attendance were approximately 10,000 police officers, firefighters and their families, which was a breathtaking sight.
We were situated directly across from an elementary school adjacent to the church. Prior to the funeral, a large number of students, probably first and second graders sang “God Bless America.” There wasn’t a dry eye anywhere to be seen. The open display of affection by those elementary kids was truly unbelievable.
Additionally, the outpouring of gratitude displayed by personnel of the NYPD, FDNY and the citizens of New York City we encountered was not only overwhelming in scope, but also dearly appreciated by all of us. Those moments, in our estimation, truly defined what the spirit of America is all about.
We returned to our families and loved ones the next day with our heads held high knowing we had performed to the best of our ability and hopefully making the Miami-Dade PD and the City of Miami PD proud of our contributions.
I, myself, will always cherish this trip in that it was comprised of several unique individuals who consistently displayed loyalty, friendship, strength, unity, and honor. What else is there? Our group included Sergeants Dennis Alvarez; Rudy Gonzalez, Jr.; Kim “Halby” Halburian; Michael Roy and Gregory Zuk, along with Officers Alex Andrade; Jorge Llambes; and Isabel Soto, all assigned to the MDPD Narcotics Bureau. Also accompanying the group was Sergeant Tony “Pepe” Granado of the Miami P.D.
Reprint of an Article printed in the MIAMI-DADE PBA HEAT
By Sgt. William J. Turner, Miami-Dade P.D. (Retired)
Real Cop Training www.realcoptraining.com
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