Hundreds of the people missing in the rubble of the World Trade Center are police officers, firefighters and EMTs who rushed into the scene of disaster to help as most others were trying to escape. Those uniformed officers were honored at their own memorial mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan Monday.
NY1 reporter Taina Hernandez filed the following story.
The numbers are staggering. Among the thousands missing since Tuesday's tragic terrorist attack on the World Trade Center are more than 300 firefighters, some two dozen city police officers and three dozen Port Authority officers.
"Who was there to protect us? Who was there to shield us? Who was there to rescue all who could be rescued?" asked Edward Cardinal Egan Monday. "You know who, well. They are called police officers. They are called firefighters. They are called healthcare and emergency service workers."
After a memorial for all the victims of the tragedy on Sunday, Egan led a mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Monday specifically for the firefighters, police officers and other rescue workers who died or are still missing.
"Hurricanes of dirt, dust and debris were engulfing them," Cardinal Egan said. "There was no light with which to see. There was no light with which to breathe. All the same, they did what they always did: they guided; they protected."
And they were memorialized with a special thank-you and remembrance from St. Patrick's Cathedral.
After long days immersed in the ongoing rescue efforts, the hour and a half-long service gave the city's leaders some time to reflect.
"We pray for the sick, the injured, and for those who mourn," said Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen while leading the assembled in prayer, "remembering especially the people of Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania."
"Let us pray to the Lord for volunteers, friends, families and those worldwide who have come to help," said Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik at the podium.
Those with badges and their families were the first ones allowed into the cathedral, which was quickly packed. Outside, hundreds quietly listened to the service broadcast over speakers.
"I just think these people that are being honored are above and beyond deserving," said one woman who stood outside the church during the service.
"It'll give people a chance to be together and show each other's support so they don't feel like they're alone," said another.
Outside the cathedral, strict security measures stood as a reminder of the nature of last Tuesday's attack. The cathedral was swept during an early lockdown, and no handbags or knapsacks were allowed inside.
The security was a signal times may have changed, but New York will always have the heroic acts of its Bravest and Finest.
- Taina Hernandez