End of watch: NYPD salutes heroes fallen from 9/11-related illnesses at somber Police Plaza ceremony

“Fidelis ad mortem,” translates to “faithful until the death,” a Latin phrase the NYPD often use when an officer has reached the end of their watch. 

Through a stream of glistening tears from onlookers, the NYPD kept that phrase in mind as it added 28 more names to their Hall of Heroes Monday — recognizing the number of NYPD members who succumbed to 9/11-related illnesses in the past year.

The NYPD Hall of Heroes is a series of plaques upon the walls of the main lobby within the NYPD’s headquarters, which honors the ultimate sacrifice made by members of the police force. Each year, the department remembers those who have died in the line of duty, with the Nov. 15 memorial service focusing on those still losing their lives from cancer and other illnesses that they contracted while participating in the recovery effort following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

It was an emotional ceremony for families. Photo by Dean Moses
It became to much to bare for some. Photo by Dean Moses

Police officers have a dangerous job and through this ceremony, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea sought to remind how deadly and heartbreaking that job can be.

Families of officers lost during 2020 began to weep as a battalion of intricate bouquets were amassed on behalf of various sections of the department in the Hall of Heroes. Names of the fallen were read aloud as their loved ones and peers looked on in deep sadness.

An officer prepares for the ceremony. Photo by Dean Moses
NYPD saluted fallen heroes with floral wreaths. Photo by Dean Moses

“It’s hard to believe that soon we will be graduating police officers out of our academy who were not alive on Sept. 11, 2001,” Shea said. “We honor far too many men and women who answered the call in our nation’s darkest time. They along with other first responders do what is second nature to them and run into danger. People needed help, there really wasn’t much else they needed to know. The toll that day has now surpassed 290.”

Flowers are presented in honor of those lost. Photo by Dean Moses

The number of officers who have died from 9/11 related illness has reached more than 12 times the number of NYPD who were killed during the World Trade Center attack (23 perished that day). In the two decades since, officers have passed away due to illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory ailments related to their efforts while working the pile. 

Police commissioner Dermot Shea honors the lost.

“​​Anytime we have to remember people that have paid the ultimate sacrifice and let the families know that we’ll never forget is tough,” Chief of Department Rodney Harrison said. “I wish there was more we can do to help them during this difficult time. I think this is a nice way of remembering and letting everybody know we’ll never forget, but it’s not easy when you hear the sobbing and crying and the difficulties that they still have to go through every single day. But I just love Commissioner Shea what he does, and how we make sure that we as a Police Department take care of those family members that have lost loved ones and paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

The plaque is unveiled. Photo by Dean Moses
Officers offer flowers. Photo by Dean Moses