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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Stabbed in the Back (Again) – 9/11’s Forgotten Heroes

It pains me greatly to have to write this, but the reality is that the overwhelming majority of politicians in Washington, D.C. truly wish we would all die. That may sound harsh, but there can be no other answer to explain their callousness when it comes to this issue.

Every September 11th, they seize on the opportunity to wrap themselves up in faux patriotism, jump in front of the cameras, and boldly proclaim that they will #NeverForget, but the reality is that come September 12th, they have already FORGOTTEN.

Let me explain to you what is at stake here. Right now, there are thousands of first responders and victims of the attack who are dealing with terminal illnesses, as a result of their exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero. For some it is not a simple cancer diagnosis, but multiple cancer diagnosis. Many are incapacitated to the point that they cannot work, meaning they are left with skyrocketing medical bills along with their own personal bills. The stories are heartbreaking.

Imagine being one of these heroes, who spent countless hours of self-sacrifice at Ground Zero, risking their lives for others, but now you have to struggle to come up with enough money to keep a roof over your head? Yes, this is happening in America today. What’s worse is that the very system setup to help, has been slow-walking the processing of claims for years. My own VCF claim for cancer has languished in some federal employee’s in-box for well over a year and has not even been looked at. My lawyers tell me that it will be an additional six months to a year before it is even reviewed. I can guarantee you that every payday those dedicated employees are getting THEIR checks on time. I’m not sure what these employees are being paid for this work, but I can tell you that the Special Master in charge of running this program earns close to a cool quarter of a million dollars a year for running this debacle.

When the original Victim’s Compensation Fund was created, shortly after the attacks, it was NOT out of the kindness of their collective political hearts. They did it simply because they were playing a game of CYA. Why you ask? Well, for starters, the government lied to us by claiming that the air was SAFE, even though they knew it wasn’t. Then, they decided that in exchange for their quick settlement we could not sue the airlines or the government. But that original VCF plan only ran for a short time and was shut down.

It took a number of years, and a growing community of sick first responders and victims, before the politicians acquiesced. In 2010, they passed a new iteration of the VCF called the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and then in 2015 they reauthorized, providing coverage for victims through 2090. The only problem was that they never adequately funded it. In fact, it was ridiculously underfunded. To be clear, the government was intimately aware of the escalating cases of deaths and diseases from exposure to toxins at Ground Zero and opted to slap a Band-Aid on the wound.

On February 15th, 2019, a notice went out from the Special Master. It effectively notified those who had claims waiting to be processed by the VCF that the fund was running out of money and that any awards would now be slashed by 50%. It further stated that any new claims that were filed would see a 70% reduction.

 

Mind you, this is the same government that sends billions of dollars annually to FOREIGN governments, but turns a blind eye to the heroes and victims of the worst terror attack in U.S. History. What has become of this great nation when we send more money annually to the nation that the 9/11 attack was launched from then we provide for the victims during the life of the program?

The government would like you to believe that the effects of the attack ended shortly after September 11th. Here is a newsflash: On September 11th, 2001, I lost 23 NYPD brothers and a sister. Since then, we have lost nearly 6x that number and those are only the ones that the NYPD has gotten around to approving. The actual number is probably closer to 200, if not more, and it will only rise. I wish I could tell you the number of FDNY, but it is safe to safe that it is even higher for them.  The reason that the numbers are even this low is because these agencies, in concert with the city, are trying to fight the awarding of any additional line of duty designations. In the end, it is all about money. The government certifies your illness as being directly attributed to the attack, but the city ignores it.

You would think getting approval for the funding of the Zadroga Act would be a political ground ball, but you would be wrong. To date, there are only 21 sponsors in the Senate and only 93 in the House; which means that of the 535 total members of Congress, 421 have FORGOTTEN. What is equally galling to me is the fact that from the Republican side, MY party, there are a combined total of twenty-five. Yep, those same folks who wrap themselves up in the flag every year and proclaim #NeverForget are a bunch of lying SOB’s. Hell, I can’t even get my own Congressman, Rodney Davis, to respond to my communications to him, let alone to co-sponsor the bill. All he can come up with is catchy tweets once a year.

This will not change unless Americans do something about it. If you are one of those people that reminisce every year about where you were on the morning of September 11th, then you need to do something for those people who were THERE on September 11th.

The heroes and victims of 9/11 are sick, dying and running out of time. They need YOUR help and they need it now. Contact your Senators and Representatives and DEMAND that they treat them just as well as we treat our ‘friends’. No more Foreign Aid until America’s heroes are taken care of first.

Media Outlets: If you are interested in discussing this matter, please CONTACT ME directly.

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Where Was God ? Update (1st Qtr Royalty Donation)

Pleased to announce that the numbers are in for the first quarter sales of Where Was God ? and, as promised, we are donating all royalties to charity. Today I was able to sign a check for one hundred dollars to the Salvation Army. It is nice to see that even seventeen years later we can still make something good come out of that tragedy.

Of course, none of this is possible without the reader. If you haven’t read the book yet, please consider it and also share the link with friends. So many people are searching for answers and I think that once you open it you will find some. As one reader put it, “Early in my journey with God I read ‘The Case for Christ’ [Strobel] and I was disappointed. It was not persuasive and frankly left more food for the cynic in me. Your book felt like a real case for Christ, as if a seasoned trial lawyer was putting on a case.”

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