By Victoria Merlino
Emotions ran deep in the Queens Criminal Courthouse, as a packed room of court officers came together to honor their colleagues who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and its aftermath.
Capt. William Harry Thompson, Sgt. Mitchel Wallace and Sgt. Thomas Jurgens all perished as first responders in the 9/11 attacks, and other officers, like Court Officer Lt. Theodore “Teddy” Leoutsakos, died later as a result of illnesses and injuries from that day.
“I saw firsthand what evil could do [that day],” said chaplain in the Fraternal Order of Court Officers and retired Sgt. Frank Barry during the ceremony. Barry was trapped in Building 5 on 9/11, and was himself rescued by firefighters.
“Everyone who responded acted with love, courage, honor and valor,” he said. “We must never forget their sacrifice.”
The state court system’s official ceremony occurred at the Captain William H. Thompson, Sergeant Thomas Jurgens and Sergeant Mitchel Wallace New York State Court Officers Academy in Brooklyn, which was named after the three officers who died on 9/11.
In Queens, there were tears as officers shared their experiences with the room.
“I think everyone in this room knows where they were that day,” said Lt. Tywon Bethea.
Bethea was 18 years old with a newborn daughter, on his way to school when the attacks happened. “9/11 for me ... was a day of anger [and] confusion,” he said.
But for him, 9/12 was a day of unity, he said.
“We did not fall. In fact, we did the opposite,” he said. “We stood up.”