Among the nearly 2,600 people killed at the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001, were three state court officers who ran into the burning building to get civilians to safety.
On the eighth anniversary of the attacks Friday, hundreds gathered at Queens Borough Hall to honor the valor of the rescuers, one of whom spent years helping Bayside residents as a member of the Bayside Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Those who knew and worked with Sgt. Mitchel Wallace, the ambulance volunteer, Capt. Harry Thompson and Sgt. Thomas Jurgens said the officers lived for service and did not hesitate when they saw the two airlines strike the World Trade Center.
“Harry, Mitch and Tom responded because of the conviction of their values. Values instilled in them by their parents and their families,” said Chief Joseph Baccellieri, who heads the state’s court officer’s academy.
The State Supreme Court Officers Association and State Supreme Court system has honored the officers each year since the attacks. Their actions helped to get several civilians to safety, according to Queens Criminal Court Justice Fernando M. Camacho, who served as master of ceremonies at the memorial.
One of the groups to get help from the officers that day were the students at the John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy Charter School, located close to where the towers stood. Even though the high school students could see the second plane strike the tower, they all managed to get home safely that day with the help of first responders who got them to safety, Camacho said.
Several students came to the memorial and paid tribute to the officers with poems that brought tears to the eyes of the fallen men’s families.
“You’re not just FDNY or NYPD, you’re all just heroes to me,” Shakoya Bumbury said in her poem, “To the Heroes, New York Heroes, Everyday Heroes.”
Noreen McDonough, Wallace’s fiancée, remarked that the memorials have always made her more proud of the officer. Wallace, 36, who served with the Bayside Volunteer Ambulance Corps before joining the court system, had a long track record of stepping up to help someone in need, according to McDonough.
“If we were driving and he saw an accident, he would pull over and give help,” she said. “He always had his medical supplies bag in the back seat.”
The family of Jurgens, 27, said they have been very grateful for the support they received from the state’s court officers. Jurgens’ father, Joe, said he appreciated the generosity of Sgt. Craig Loveritch, a fellow court officer who also responded to the attack and grew close to the families of all three officers.
“The thing that means the most to me is that there are people who have been with us in the beginning and they’re still with us in terms of emotional support,” he said.
Borough President Helen Marshall agreed. Although she said she is always saddened when she remembers the events of that day, honoring the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice reminded her of the courage that was produced on Sept. 11.
“These three individuals went to work every day to serve the people of New York City,” she said. “All have shown the commitment to public safety.”
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2009 Community News Group
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