September 9 wrote many heroic stories that should never be forgotten. The courage shown by first responders on that day will probably never be fully realized. The police officers, firefighters, EMTs, doctors, and civilians who ran towards the carnage can never be thanked enough. Each and every one of them deserves the title of “hero.” It is not possible to credit each and every hero of September 11. Here are five heroes who gave their lives in a darkest hours of New York City.
NYPD Police Officer Moira Smith was the first officer to report the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when she saw the first plane strike the first tower of the World Trade Center. Smith, a 13-year veteran, ran into the towers and immediately began assisting in the evacuation.
Displaying outward calm, Officer Smith was last seen heading back into the South Tower to help evacuate more people, and in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of that tower a brief radio transmission from a female officer calling for help was recorded and later identified as Smith.
Officer Smith’s remains were recovered in March 2002, and her shield and ’13’ collar brass (seen in the background and indicating her assignment to the 13th Precinct), are preserved in the 9/11 Museum in New York City.
She was the only NYPD female police officer to perish at Ground Zero. She was survived by her 2-year-old daughter and her husband.
Her coolness under pressure was remembered by a survivor, Martin Glynn: “The mass of people exiting the building felt the calm assurance that they were being directed by someone in authority who was in control of the situation. Her actions even seemed ordinary, even commonplace. She insulated the evacuees from the awareness of the dangerous situation they were in, with the result that everything preceded smoothly.”
An extensive biography was written on Moira and it includes interviews with her husband and daughter. You can read that here.
Welles Crowther, 24, a rookie equities trader from Upper Nyack, N.Y., who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, became known as the Man in the Red Bandana, for the handkerchief he wore as a protective mask while assuming a rescuer’s role in the South Tower before it collapsed.
On September 11, 2001, minutes after United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower between floors 78 and 85 at 9:03 a.m., Crowther called his mother from his office at 9:12 a.m., leaving the message, “Mom, this is Welles. I wanted you to know that I’m OK.” Crowther made his way to the 78th floor sky lobby, where he encountered a group of survivors, including a badly burned Ling Young, who worked on the 86th floor in New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance. Young had been one of approximately 200 people waiting at a bank of elevators to evacuate when the plane hit the tower, and one of the few survivors. Crowther, carrying a young woman on his back, directed them to the one working stairway.
The survivors followed him 17 floors down, where he dropped off the woman he was carrying before heading back upstairs to assist others. By the time he returned to the 78th floor, he had a bandana around his nose and mouth to protect him from smoke and haze. He found another group of survivors, which included AON Corp. Employee Judy Wein, who worked on the 103rd floor and was in pain from a broken arm, cracked ribs and a punctured lung. According to Wein, Crowther assisted in putting out fires and administering first aid. He then announced to that group, “Everyone who can stand, stand now. If you can help others, do so.” He directed this group downstairs as well. As occupants of the Tower headed for the street, Crowther returned up the stairs to help others. He was last seen doing so with members of the FDNY before the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m.
Crowther’s body was found on March 19, 2002, alongside several firefighters and emergency workers bunched in a suspected command post in the South Tower lobby. The New York medical examiner’s office said his body was found intact, with no signs of burns, and that authorities speculated that he was aiding the rescue effort as a civilian usher when the building collapsed. Crowther’s family was unaware of the details of Crowther’s activities between his last phone call to his mother and his death, until Allison Crowther read Judy Wein’s firsthand account in The New York Times of being saved by a man in a red bandana, which led to Allison meeting with the people Welles had saved, including Wein and Young; they confirmed from photographs the identity of the man who aided them. According to survivor accounts, Crowther saved as many as 18 people following the attacks.
James P. Leahy learned responsibility at a tragically early age. A New York City police officer, he was 13 and the eldest of five children when his father, a Parks and Recreation Department employee, was murdered while on duty at a city golf course.
Officer Leahy, 38, became the head of his family then and there, said Officer Tim Duffy, a colleague at the Sixth Precinct in Greenwich Village. His youngest sister, Danielle, describes James Leahy as the only father she knew, from the time she was a toddler until he walked her down the aisle.
Losing his father shaped Officer Leahy’s devotion to his own family: his childhood sweetheart and wife, Marcela, and his sons, James Jr., 18, Danny, 13, and John, 6. To ensure his children’s educations, he worked two part-time jobs, as a security guard at New York University and at a J. C. Penney store near his Staten Island home.
He coached his sons in football and was always on the sidelines for their Little League games. A die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, Officer Leahy fulfilled a dream by taking his boys to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio last summer for the induction of Lynn Swann, his favorite player.
At 9:35 that morning, Leahy’s wife recieved a voicemail from him saying that he was ok and in the building. Even though Leahy did not have to be there that day, he was seen carrying oxygen tanks into the building. Tapes that recorded his voice were later found, revealing that Leahy’s last words to his partner were that there were more people upstairs and he was going to help them.
John Leahy was last seen charging up into the north tower with firefighters while he was rescuing people in the underground mall. Leahy was in that tower when its twin collapsed, but he radioed Laguer to tell him he and others weren’t leaving behind the 20 civilians they were trying to rescue. Moments later, the north tower fell.
James Leahy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during the Annual Medal Day ceremony on December 4, 2001. The New York City Police Department Medal of Honor is the highest award that may be bestowed upon a member of the service.
Ronald Paul Bucca
Ronald Paul Bucca was a New York City Fire Department Marshal killed during the September 11 attacks. He is the only fire marshal in the history of the New York City Fire Department to be killed in the line of duty.
Bucca was a 22-year veteran of the department; he was promoted to Fire Marshal in 1992. As such, he was one of the individuals that investigated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the FDNY representative on the Joint Terrorism Task Force. By 2000, the fire department’s seat was removed, and Bucca’s position there relinquished.
After responding to the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bucca ascended to the impact zone at the Sky Lobby on the 78th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, along with Battalion Chief Orio Palmer. The two men, both experienced marathon runners, are believed to have made it to the highest floor of any first responders in either tower before the building collapsed.
His children wrote:
Cyril Richard Rescorla was a United States Army officer and private security officer of British origin who served in Northern Rhodesia as a member of the Northern Rhodesia Police (NRP) and as a commissioned officer in the Vietnam War, where he was a second lieutenant in the United States Army.
As the director of security for the financial services firm Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center, Rescorla anticipated attacks on the towers and implemented evacuation procedures credited with saving many lives. He died during the attacks of September 11, 2001, while leading evacuees from the South Tower.
At 8:46 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 struck World Trade Center Tower 1, (The North Tower). Rescorla heard the explosion and saw the tower burning from his office window in the 44th floor of World Trade Center Tower 2 (The South Tower). When a Port Authority announcement came over the P.A. system urging people to stay at their desks, Rescorla ignored the announcement, grabbed his bullhorn, walkie-talkie, and cell phone, and began systematically ordering Morgan Stanley employees to evacuate, including the 1,000 employees in WTC 5.
He directed people down a stairwell from the 44th floor, continuing to calm employees after the building lurched violently following the crash of United Airlines Flight 175 38 floors above into Tower 2 at 9:03 A.M. Morgan Stanley executive Bill McMahon stated that even a group of 250 people visiting the offices for a stockbroker training class knew what to do because they had been shown the nearest stairway.
Rescorla had boosted morale among his men in Vietnam by singing Cornish songs from his youth, and now he did the same in the stairwell, singing songs like one based on the Welsh song “Men of Harlech”:
“Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming, Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?,
See their warriors’ pennants streaming, To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady, It cannot be ever said ye for the battle were not ready
Stand and never yield!”
Between songs, Rescorla called his wife, telling her, “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.” After successfully evacuating most of Morgan Stanley’s 2,687 employees, he went back into the building. When one of his colleagues told him he too had to evacuate the World Trade Center, Rescorla replied, “As soon as I make sure everyone else is out”. He was last seen on the 10th floor, heading upward, shortly before the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 A.M. His remains were never found. Rescorla was declared dead three weeks after the attacks.
Rest in peace our heroes, we will NEVER FORGET you.