Remembering 9/11 – “Never Forgotten”

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Visible from space, a smoke plume rises from the Manhattan area after two planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center. This photo was taken of metropolitan New York City (and other parts of New York as well as New Jersey) the morning of September 11, 2001. “Our prayers and thoughts go out to all the people there, and everywhere else,” said Station Commander Frank Culbertson of Expedition 3, after the terrorists’ attacks. Image credit: NASA

By Adam Green

BROOKLYN – On this and every 9/11, I think of my dear friend/raconteur Graham Campbell, who was a pretty damn unlikely NYPD officer, two years removed from Vassar and six removed from Trinity School on the Upper West Side. We were living together in what were then the hinterlands of Williamsburg/Greenpoint on Conselyea and Woodpoint.

He had gotten home late at night Sept 10th, and I went to vote in the Democratic primary for mayor early that morning, before the first day of grad school. I didn’t see Graham for quite a while after sneaking out the morning of 9/11, but here’s an email he wrote on the 12th. From Graham Campbell [reprinted verbatim with permission – ed.]:

Dear friends and family,

First let me tell you that I am alive and well, no injuries or problems. I’ve spent the last 36 hours in Harlem pretty much, trying to be ever vigilant.

Second, let me say that I am touched by the e-mails and phone calls I got while at work. It’s really nice to know that people worry about you, when you don’t even sometimes worry about yourself.

When I said I wasn’t hurt, that’s partly true. My heart hurts and I am mentally and physically exhausted. September 11, was the most important day of my young career and certainly the most memorable day I’ve ever had in my life.

I was sleeping on the couches in the precinct when someone woke me up and told me that a plane had hit the WTC. I was shocked, but I knew that our guys would figure it out and that we could fix anything. All that changed when I saw the plane fly into the side of Tower #2. Then I knew, just like the rest of the world what had happened. I remember putting on the kevlar vest and getting the riot helmet out of the bag and shaking while say the Lord’s prayer.

I was supposed to go to the election detail for the primary elections in NYC, so they wouldn’t take me downtown. This was before the cancelled the election.

I remember talking to Montu and then the phone went dead. I ran to the TV and saw the tower collapse. My radio was full of people yelling, “It’s coming down, get out of there! Run for your lives!”

Then the most horrifying sound I’ve ever heard came out of my radio. It was a female officer, crying and screaming for help, like I’ve never heard anyone scream. She didn’t
know where she was. You could hear the cops literally begging her to tell them where she was. And her screams got softer and softer and then they were gone.
Literally, 15,000 cops heard another officer die on that radio.

We’re working 12 hour tours and days off are cancelled. We’re fighting each other to go down to the scene. They only send 8 guys out of about 50, and everyone volunteers. To do something, to do anything.

That feeling of helplessness, hearing your colleagues calling for you and you not being able to do a damn thing, makes you sick. Literally you ache. I’m probably going down there hopefully tomorrow.

I have no inside gossip. Contrary to popular belief, we get most of our intell. on this from the news too. I just know I wish that day never happened and I never had that radio. Some guys turned them off…

But I am fine and there are lots of guys some who I knew, and many who I didn’t who aren’t. They died after running up into a building that some people were jumping out of. They died heroes and they lived as heroes. Many of my friends were shocked because we all knew if we had been there, we would have done the same thing and we know what would have happened.

So pray for everyone, especially the firefighters and the cops and those who gave their lives so that others, may live. I am proud to wear the same uniform that they did.

Finally I just wanted to say that everyone talks about WW2, displayed in Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor. About ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances. The critics say we as a nation don’t have that anymore, and that’s why these movies are so popular.

We do, it’s just that we pay them 40,000 a year and call them the New York City Fire and Police Departments. And what they say about disasters bringing out the best in people is true. Everyone is here to help us. People are giving blood faster than they can take it. People are meeting at Chelsea Piers to wait for hours to see if they can help in the search.

As I was sitting in my patrol car on 125 St, I saw a blue fire truck on the corner and I walked up to them and I saw the truck had Rhode Island plates. I talked to them. They were from Pawtucket, RI. They said that they heard there were firefighters trapped
and they got in their truck and drove 6 hours to save them. Lights and sirens down I-95. And they were just glad to help out. I thanked them and shook hands and then went back to the car and cried, just like I am now. That was the best thing I’ll remember about these past days.

God bless you all. I love you and miss you. The Campbell clan motto is Ne Obliviscaris, which means “Never Forgotten.”
Thanks,
Graham

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