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10 Heroic Police Officers Who Gave Their Lives on 9/11

by Josh King
fact checked by Jamie Frater

It is difficult to select just ten Police officers who performed extreme acts of heroism and bravery when our nation was attacked on September 11th. After researching the officers who died that day, we assembled this list of officers whose selfless acts saved lives that fateful day, and reminded us all what a hero truly is. Our deepest condolelences go out to the not only the officers on this list, but to the families of all the officers who gave their lives that day.

10 Officer James Leahy


James was a member of the New York Police Department on the day the towers were hit. Leahy had a tough upbringing; his father was murdered when he was just 13 years old, leaving him the head of the family. James married and had children, coaching their football team and never missing a little league game. 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.

9 Officer Ramon Suarez


Officer Suarez was a physical fitness guru who also coached his daughter’s elementary track team. On the morning of September 11th, he heard the calls for help and responded by commadeering a taxi and racing to the scene. Officer Suarez’s photo was later published in a paper that showed him outside the World Trade Center rescuing a distraught woman. After the picture was taken Officer Suarez raced back into the second tower, which then collapsed.

8 Officer James Nelson


Officer Nelson liked to say, “When I go out of this world, I want to know I made a difference.” On the morning of September 11th, he did just that. Nelson enrolled in the Port Authority Police academy in 1984, and was part of the rescue efforts in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. During the 2001 attack, Nelson was killed while evacuating people from the 27th floor after refusing to leave the building and the people who were still trapped inside.

7 Officer John W Perry


Officer Perry was not your typical Police officer. He was fluent in four different languages and was learning a fifth. He also ran in marathons and was an extra in Woody Allen films. On the morning of September 11th, Officer Perry was filing his retirement papers at the precinct so that he could become a medical malpractice lawyer. After hearing about the attacks, Perry ran several blocks to the World Trade Center. Before running into the building, Officer Perry helped a woman who fainted. The last anyone saw of Perry was as he ran into the south tower. Then it collapsed.

6 Officer Moira Smith


Officer Smith was the first woman to die in the attacks on September 11th. Moira was trying to rescue people inside the second tower when it collapsed. Officer Smith rescued several people that day and is credited with saving numerous lives. Officer Smith had been involved in the 1991 subway crash in Union Square and was honored with the distinguished duty medal for the dozens of lives she saved on that occasion as well.

5 Officer Thomas Jurgens


Officer Jurgens was trained as a medic in the Army before signing on with the New York State Office of the courts. On September 11th, Officer Jurgens was inside the first tower. As the tower’s structural integrity worsened, Officer Jurgens was warned to get out. The last radio transmission from Jurgens was: “There are people here who need our help.”

4 Captain Kathy Mazza


Captain Mazza was the first female commanding officer at the Port Authority Police Academy. And just like so many others, Captain Mazza and her collegues responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center. Mazza saw a bottleneck of people trying to escape through the revolving doors at the north tower and noticed they were unable to do so because of the hysteria. Mazza drew her weapon and shot out the glass, allowing many people to escape the building. Mazza was last seen with Lt Robert Cirri, carrying a woman down the steps, when the tower collapsed. Mayor Rudy Guiliani said of Captain Mazza: “She was a trailblazer with a career that was truly unique. She had an incredible desire to help people. She’s an American hero.”

3 Officer Kenneth Tietjen


As a boy, Officer Tietjen was scared of two things: police cars and fire trucks. When he got a job that required him to ride in both of those, his family never stopped teasing him. On September 11th, Officer Tietjen heard the calls for help, commandeered a taxi, and drove to ground zero. Officer Tietjen rushed into the North tower, and rescued several people. When he emerged from the building, he and his partner realized that there was only one respirator left. Officer Tietjen smiled at his partner and said, “Seniority rules.” He then grabbed the respirator and rushed back into the tower—just before it collapsed.

2 Officer Richard Guadagno


Officer Guadagno was returning from vacation on United Flight 93 when it was hijacked. It may never be known, but there is reason to believe that Officer Guadagno was among passengers that tried to retake the flight, which led to the plane crashing into a field in Pennslyvania, rather than its intended target.

1 Officer Dominick Pezzulo


Officer Pezzulo was stationed at the doors of a New York bus terminal when he heard the call for help at the World Trade Center. He and four other officers commandeered a bus and drove to the the scene. Once inside, one of his fellow officers became trapped under a large slab of concrete. Working under extremely cramped conditions, Officer Pezzulo attempted to free the officer. The collapse of the second tower triggered the settling of debris, and Officer Pezzulo became trapped under a concrete wall. Mortally wounded, Officer Pezzulo fired a shot from his service revolver to try and summon rescue workers. Officer Pezzulo’s last words were: “Willie, don’t forget. I died trying to save you guys,” refering to Will Jimeno, the officer he fought to free from the concrete slab. Pezzulo was honored in the Oliver Stone film “World Trade Center”.

fact checked by Jamie Frater