Throwback Thursday - Behind the Scenes (NYPD ESU)

Readers of my books know that I reference a lot of different places and agencies. So today I am continuing the theme of Throwback Thursday, the 2nd in the on-going series, by introducing you to what I consider the preeminent unit within the NYPD; the Emergency Service Unit. In my second book, Queen’s Gambit, ESU plays a pivotal role in the hunt for terrorists threatening NYC.

The saying goes in New York City: ‘When a civilian needs help they call 911, but when a cop needs help they call ESU.’

 In 1964, the Philadelphia Police Department established what became known as the first official Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team in the United States. Three years later, the Los Angeles Police Department launched their SWAT team. These were the first units dedicated to specifically addressing escalating violence in urban areas. Without taking anything away from these two premier agencies, in my opinion they were about four decades late to the party.

In 2015, after five years of research, I wrote: Uncommon Valor, a history of the insignia of ESU. It was my goal to record not only the insignia of this acclaimed unit, but also the rich history. I was deeply honored when Police Commissioner William Bratton called me to say that he was having this book included at the NYPD Police Academy library.

The origins of the modern ESU date back to 1925, when NYPD Police Commissioner Richard Enright, created the Police Emergency Automobile Squad. This unit arose out of the need to address changes in the growing urban landscape in New York City.  A steadily growing population, coupled with increases in urban construction and a diversifying system of transportation, began to present new issues that the regular patrol officers simply could not begin to handle effectively. Officers were now being forced to contend with a myriad of issues, such as gas leaks, pedestrians being run over by vehicles or falling from elevated train lines, and horses that would fall into open construction sites. It soon became obvious that there was a need to have a specialized unit, which would be available to respond to the new type of emergency situations that New York City was beginning to face. 

On November 3rd, 1926, the officers of Emergency Service engaged in their first major gun battle when NYC mobster, Herman ‘Hyman’ Amberg, who was in jail for the murder of a local jeweler, attempted to escape from the old ‘Tombs’ jail on Centre Street, along with two other prisoners. Pistols had been previously smuggled into the jail for the three men. They faked illnesses so that they would be brought to the jail doctor. Once inside the doctor's office, they pulled their guns and attempted to escape. Newly assigned Warden, Peter Mallon, heard the commotion and came running to stop the escape. He was shot and killed as he entered the office. The three inmates then fled into the prison courtyard, near the Lafayette Street gate, where they exchanged shots with Keeper (the former title for Corrections Officer) Jeremiah Murphy and his partner, Daniel O’Connor. Keeper Murphy was killed and his partner was wounded.

Emergency Service responded and engaged the inmates from nearby buildings, raking the jail from all sides with heavy machine gun fire and gas bombs.  The gun battle at the Tombs went on for thirty minutes, with hundreds of rounds being fired. Amberg and the other two inmates hunkered down behind a pile of coal in the yard, before making their way to the safety of a guardhouse. They occasionally returned fire, wounding a police officer and a businessman in the Conklin Building across the street. At some point, two of the inmates were shot and wounded. With no escape possible, all three committed suicide. 

Over the decades, the role of the Emergency Service Unit has continually evolved. While they still respond to all major disasters, they have become the tip of the spear in the response to terrorism. On September 11th, 2001, of the twenty-three members of the NYPD killed on that day, fourteen were members of ESU. Sadly, in the years since, a number of members have succumbed to 9/11 related illnesses from the toxins they ingested during the rescue & recovery efforts.

In addition to its traditional role, ESU also provides Counter Assault (CAT) / Counter Sniper (CS) Team’s for major events and dignitary protection details. Like the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, ESU works hand in hand with their counterparts in the United States Secret Service and is part of the protection details for presidential motorcades and venues.

The motto of the NYPD ESU has always been: ‘Anytime, Anywhere, Any Place’.

If you have ever watched a newscast, concerning any major event in NYC, it is almost certain that you will see the familiar vehicles of the ESU. Contained within these trucks is a variety of equipment to handle any type of incident. When confronted with a situation they have never encountered before, they will find a way to perform the impossible.

The men & women of ESU are the epitome of the title: NY’s Finest.

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Photo courtesy of Tom O’Connor (NYPD ESU - Retired)

Photo courtesy of Tom O’Connor (NYPD ESU - Retired)

Where Was God ? - Amazon Bestseller

As an author, I cannot begin to tell you just how incredible the feeling is when your book reaches that best seller status. No, it isn’t the NY Times of the USA Today list, but it is a start and I want to share my pride with you.

This week, my non-fiction book: Where Was God?: An NYPD first responder’s search for answers following the terror attack of September 11th, 2001, hit the Amazon best seller list, reaching the #22 spot. It’s moved a few slots over the last few days, but I’m still proud that this book is reaching an audience that might find comfort in my findings.

This journey started with God and I owe any and all success to him.

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Interview: INFOWIND News - 9/11 VCF & Congressional Malfeasance

Had the chance to sit down with Joe Charter over at INFOWIND News to discuss the problems the heroes and victims of the September 11th terror attacks are facing.

Sadly, Congress has failed to provide adequate funding for the Victims Compensation Fund, so the compensation so many were depending on has been slashed by 50% for old claims and 70% for new claims. Many are unable to work, due to severe illness from the toxins ingested at Ground Zero, and are in jeopardy of losing their homes.

The Government lied to us when they said the air was safe, and then they lied again when they said they would #NeverForget.

It’s time to #Renew911VCF

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Has Your Elected Official Forgotten the Victims of 9/11?

I wish I could devote all of my time writing my latest novel or providing you with entertaining blog posts relating to my books and characters, but sadly I find myself having to turn to you and beg for your support in a much larger issue: The Heroes and Victims of the September 11th Terror Attacks.

Every September 11th, our elected representatives love to get out in front of the cameras and proclaim that we American’s should never forget the victims of the horrific terrorist attack and that we should always remember the heroes of that day. Yet that is exactly what they do beginning September 12th. Apparently, the only ones needing a reminder are those in government.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is on the brink of collapse strictly because Congress failed to adequately fund it.  Simply put, without proper funding, the program will close in 2020. This will leave many within the 9/11 community without treatment for the toxins they were exposed to, even though the government lied and said the air was safe. In addition, many rely on the promised compensation because they are dying from attributed illnesses and know their families will need this money after they are gone. Imagine for a moment a first responder on the brink of losing their homes, simply because they rushed to the aid of their fellow American’s.

Yet our vaunted politicians in Congress provided less than $5 billion dollars for a program that was not set to expire till 2090, yet they provide $45 - $50 billion ANNUALLY in foreign aid.

Since the attacks of September 11th, the United States has sent nearly $100 billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan, the country from which the attacks were planned and launched.  It is unconscionably that our representatives treat foreign countries better than their own American citizens.

Tell Congress to treat our 9/11 victims and heroes with at least the same dignity and respect that is given to foreign countries.

The link below provides a way for you to see whether or not your elected representatives have supported the funding of the Zadroga Bill. All you have to do is put in your address and it will tell you immediately.

CLICK HERE TO SEE IF YOUR REPRESENTATIVE SUPPORT THE ZADROGA BILL?

Let them know that even though they may have forgotten, you haven’t!! Never Forget should be more than a catchy hashtag.

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Never Forget the Heroes: The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Act (S. 3591 / H.R. 7062)

FORGOTTEN – The lost Heroes & Widows of September 11th

This is a post I never thought I would have to write (again), but I should have known better.

You see, I spent twenty years as a cop in New York City. I learned early on that when the camera lights dim and the T.V. satellite trucks leave, the tragedy of the crime scene is quickly forgotten. In the days and weeks following the September 11th terrorist attacks we were told by the leaders of this great nation, who obligingly wrapped themselves in the flag for the photo-ops, that America would simply #NeverForget the heroes, yet 17 years later I can confirm to you that we have indeed been forgotten.

The reality is that the September 11th attack is not a distant memory. We are quickly approaching the time where we will have lost just as many to 9/11 attributed illnesses as we did on the day of the attack. The aftermath of the attack has never ended.

Those of us who responded that fateful day were aware of the dangers we faced, even after being lied to by the ‘Honorable’ Christine Todd Whitman, who was then head of the EPA, that the air was safe. Ms. Whitman now regrets her role in perpetuating the lie. Gee thanks for nothing, Chrissy. Anyone who was there can tell you that there was nothing even remotely safe, including the air, but they did their jobs without consideration of the risks. Unfortunately, as soon as the sicknesses began to set in, the politicians, like those T.V. crews, packed up and moved on.

“Heroes, what heroes?”

It took nearly a decade to get the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act passed.

As a Republican, I am profoundly ashamed to say that it was my party that stood in the way. What should have been a bill that both sides could have rallied around became a political football, with Republicans threatening to filibuster the bill unless they got tax-cut concessions. Apparently #NeverForget the Heroes is politician-speak for: “What can I get out of this?”

In 2015, politicians were once again shamed into backing an extension of the bill and once again it was the Republicans who dragged their heels. Amazingly, when it comes to their pet projects they are all about funding, but when it comes to helping out people who have truly earned it, they all become die-hard fiscal conservatives.

Now here we are, in 2018, and funding is again running out. And just like in the past, these same politicians need to be shamed into acting.

In 2015, my congressional representative, Rodney Davis, was on record saying the following:  “We will never forget. I remember we were on vacation and I was getting Toryn ready to go to the beach when a plane hit the second tower 14 years ago. Where were you?”

Well Rodney, I can tell you I wasn’t at no friggin’ beach like you were! But you already knew that (hint: Rodney and I used to be on a first name basis a few years ago, but then he got elected to congress and forgot about the people who supported him.)

Sadly, I had to shame Mr. Davis (How “Never Forget the Heroes of 9/11” turned into “Who?”) before he finally signed on as a co-sponsor for the 2015 extension

Back then I got a form letter e-mail response from him, something to the effect that he would be ‘looking into it.’ This time I didn’t even get so much as an e-mail acknowledgment (Perhaps it is lost in the internet). So, it looks like I am going to have to do it all over again. Who knows, perhaps he might even find himself in a contested election, the next time around…… You know, by an actual hero who won’t forget.

The sad reality is that the men and women who rushed in to help on September 11th, 2001, are sick and DYING and a lot of politicians would just be happy to see them go quietly into the grave. They are losing their homes because they are having to choose between receiving medical treatments or keeping a roof over their families head. Widows are being nickel and dimed to death through award ‘deductions’ in what the system cheerfully calls “collateral assets”…….. Funny how the Victim’s Compensation Fund is making victims out of us a 2nd time around.

I know we all have our problems, our own issues, but I am begging each and every one of you to stop for just a moment and please contact your elected representative and urge them to sponsor this bill. If they are a member of the Senate it is S. 3591 and if they are a member of the House it is H.R. 7062. Of all the things they can slash, it shouldn’t be the health benefits of those who gave every last measure that tragic day.

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These are the facts today:

  • The more than 42,000 people who are in the World Trade Center Health Program are suffering from at least one certified 9/11 condition caused by toxins at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and the Shanksville crash site, while a large percentage have multiple conditions.

  • Chronic diseases like asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and cancer continue to plague those who were exposed to the many toxins and carcinogens on 9/11 and in the weeks and months thereafter.

  • Over 9,300 of those enrolled in the Health Program have been certified with a 9/11 related cancer, with more being diagnosed every day. Thousands more who have been diagnosed with cancer are only now joining the health program, so these numbers will increase dramatically.

  • 9/11 responders and survivors in the Health Program reside in all 50 states and in 434 out of 435 Congressional districts.