On September 11th, 2001, Sharon Miller, a Port Authority police officer, responded to a call at the North Tower of the World Trade Center. She went into the building with 14 of her fellow officers. Only she and one other came out alive.
Miller, retired since 2005, comes from her home in Florida every year to honor her fallen colleagues at a private interfaith service for the Port Authority at St. Peter’s Church in Lower Manhattan. The pews were half empty on Wednesday—the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks—but the air was full of music and somber veneration as the Port Authority honored its 84 members killed.
“My predecessor Neil Levin went down with the building,” said Port Authority Executive Director Joseph Seymour. “I come to honor Neil and the other 83.”
The service, which also honored the six who died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, featured a number of speakers—including Port Authority leadership and Mayor Bloomberg—and the music of the NYPD Pipes and Drums, a ceremonial unit.
“A martyr,” Reverend Joseph Tyrrell began, “comes from the Greek word ‘to witness.’ I welcome you and all here today as witnesses. We witnessed what the brave men and women did twelve years ago.”
Tyrrell urged parishioners to remember, and thus to be “unbloodied martyrs.”
Port Authority Chairman David Samson continued the rhetoric of remembrance, but with focus on the future.
“We continue our commitment to rebuild and remember for whom we rebuild,” he said.
The event’s emphasis on remembrance foreshadows the completion of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which will open Spring 2014. The Port Authority completed the One World Trade Tower—known as the Freedom Tower— on August 30th, 2013. Each speaker referenced the tower’s completion as a symbol of the future, and the agency’s role in rebuilding that future.
“Their acts of violence did not weaken our city’s resolve to keep moving forward and invest in the future,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The Port Authority is the very symbol of what was attacked in ’93 and again in 2001.”
The service wrapped up with a screening of the 84 victim’s names, read aloud, and superimposed over an American flag.
“I can’t stay home,” Miller said, choking back tears. “I see other people here who went in that day, and I feel comfortable. I’m gonna keep coming until I can’t get on a plane anymore.”