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Queens cops still wear black on shield to honor dead

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A year after the Sept. 11 attacks left 23 of their brethren dead, police officers in Queens still wear the black band of mourning over their badges, and in each precinct hangs a sign thanking the community for their support over the past year.

But the police officers in Queens showed a resolute determination to keep the borough safe for the people who live here, said Sgt. Bernard Adams, community affairs officer for Queens Patrol Borough North.

“We were working long hours and hard hours, and you heard very little complaining because we realized what we had to do,” he said.

Although all of the 23 officers lost in the World Trade Center attacks were stationed in Manhattan posts, three were Queens residents: Officer Moira Smith, 38, assigned to the 13th Precinct, lived in Glen Oaks, Officer Ramon Suarez, 45, assigned to Transit District four, lived in Ridgewood, and Officer Santos Valentin, 39, assigned to the Emergency Services Squad, who lived in Richmond Hill. The three died trying to help people escape the burning towers.

Smith, the only woman police officer to die in the attacks, was the perfect wife, mother, friend and police officer, said Lisa Mavarra, at Smith’s funeral in March. She worked with Smith as a police officer in Manhattan’s 13th Precinct

At his memorial service in December, Suarez was remembered as a classic New Yorker who hailed a taxicab to get down to the Twin Towers that morning.

Valentin loved his job as an officer so much that he used his own money to purchase special equipment, including boots and gloves, said Sgt. Richard Kemmler, Valentin’s partner, at a September memorial service for him last year.

In December, the three fallen officers, and the 20 others lost from the Police Department were awarded the medal of honor, the NYPD’s highest award.

“It was tough going through the months following the attacks,” Adams said.

Despite the grief of losing a fellow member of the force, the police officers have gained strength from the attacks, becoming more dedicated and prouder to do their jobs, Adams said. Many feared officers would retire or simply leave the job after the stress and trauma of the attacks, leaving the city and the borough vulnerable, but Adams said that has not happened in Queens.

“We weren’t affected that way,” he said of the suggested exodus. “If anything, people felt a sense of loyalty that made them work even harder.”

Support from local businesses, precinct community council members, and residents helped the officers continue their jobs, Adams said.

“The community councils were great,” he said. “They made sure we were comfortable while we were on patrol. Just the thank you’s that we got made it easier.”

Officers were also able to take advantage of stress counseling provided by the Police Department, Adams said.

“We needed it, we absolutely needed it.”

And while the day-to-day job has remained basically the same, officers walking the beat have one more thing to look out for – terrorism.

“Our focus has always been reducing crime,” Adams said. “The problem now is that we’re focusing on different types of crime. There’s always a possibility and we don’t let our guard down.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:21 pm, October 10, 2011
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