A cold November wind blew off the ocean, matching the somber mood of the occasion, as local officials, ranking members of the Nassau County Police Department, Coast Guard officers, family members and friends gathered at the Wantagh Park boat ramp on Nov. 14 to dedicate the NCPD’s latest addition to its Marine Bureau.
The vessel, a 39-foot safe boat christened “9/11 Heroes,” honored seven officers who died of illnesses they contracted after spending substantial time working on the World Trade Center recovery effort in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The boat — officially Nassau County Police Marine 11 9/11 Heroes — is to be used in rescue and interdiction efforts in local waters, and can reach speeds of up to 40 knots, or 46 mph. The roughly $1 million vessel was funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Nassau County, according to NCPD spokesman Detective Lt. Richard LeBrun.
In his invocation at the ceremony, the Rev. Joseph D’Angelo, the NCPD chaplain, drew parallels between the dedication and the story of Noah’s Ark. Deputy County Executive Tatum Fox spoke next, standing in for County Executive Laura Curran, who had been scheduled to attend. She expressed her thanks on behalf of a grateful county and its citizens for the sacrifice made by the seven officers.
Fox was followed by NCPD Commissioner Patrick Ryder, who said he had been given three pages of notes from which to speak. “But I don’t need notes to say what I want to say to the families of these men,” he added. He went on to praise their courage and dedication in the days following the 2001 attacks. “We promise we’ll never, ever forget our brothers and we’ll never, ever forget you,” he told the family members. All seven officers — Brian Abbondadelo, Charles Cole, Peter Curran, Peter Martino, Paul McCabe, Luis Palermo and Lt. Michael Shea — died as a direct result of their work at ground zero. Curran was the first to succumb, in April 2006; Palermo’s was the most recent death, in September 2017.
After Ryder’s remarks, the Marine Bureau’s commander, Lt. Gregg Magnifico, spoke about the tradition of naming boats. The bureau’s vessels are all named for fallen officers, he explained, adding that he thought their spirits watched over all who patrolled in them. “I believe that person always looks down and takes care of that crew,” he said.
Magnifico’s remarks were followed by a rendition of taps, by Lt. Gus Kalin and retired Officer Kurt Maler and “Amazing Grace,” by the NCPD pipe band.
After a helicopter flyover, Ryder and Fox presented plaques to the deceased officers’ family members. Then the relatives joined officials to crack a ceremonial bottle of champagne on the boat’s bow.
The Nassau County Marine Bureau was founded in 1933, at the close of Prohibition. The department bought its first custom-built patrol vessel in 1938. Before that, its boats were donated or loaned. The bureau now patrols 217 square miles of marine waterways using vessels ranging from 17 to 40 feet. In addition to their standard training as police officers, members of the bureau undergo extensive additional training, and all are certified either as emergency medical technicians or first responders.