The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, rocked our country to its core, forever transformed our national security landscape and caused more law enforcement line-of-duty deaths than any other single event in American history — close to 400 over the course of that terrible day and the ensuing two decades.
After the first plane struck the World Trade Center, first responders rushed to the burning buildings to evacuate the victims, saving an estimated 25,000-plus people through their heroic efforts. Tragically, when the towers collapsed, 71 officers from seven local, state and federal agencies were killed, along with 343 New York firefighters and more than 2,800 civilians. A short time later, Richard Guadagno, an officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, died aboard United Flight 93 when the plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as the passengers bravely fought to regain control from the hijackers.
Furthermore, as rescue, recovery, investigation and cleanup efforts continued at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93 sites in the following weeks, the contamination in the air posed another deadly threat. According to the CDC, tens of thousands of 9/11 first responders, recovery workers and survivors are now sick with cancer and other illnesses related to the hazards and toxins they were exposed to, and nearly 2,000 have died as a result, including hundreds of law enforcement officers. Many of those affected tirelessly advocated for health care and financial compensation until finally, in 2019, the signing of the Victim Compensation Fund Permanent Reauthorization Act ensured that the federal government would appropriate money to pay all eligible claims until 2090 — a sorely needed and deserved resource for the victims, as well as a reminder that the far-reaching repercussions of that single catastrophic day will continue to be felt for decades to come.
As we reflect on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this month, please take time to remember the heroic actions of the fallen officers and our fellow first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice that day and afterward, those who are still suffering the effects of this tragedy, and all members of law enforcement who have worked diligently ever since to prevent future attacks. We will never forget.