Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

September 11th: The Port Authority Police Department Story

"Our House"

The Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) is small compared to the New York City Police Department.  The New York City Police Department has 39,000 uniformed officers; the PAPD has only 1,300.  But PAPD officers are by no means lesser cops, and their jurisdiction includes some of the most critical areas in the New York metropolitan area.  The PAPD patrols all the airports, including JFK and LaGuardia in New York City and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey; the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan; Port Newark; and all the bridges and tunnels between New Jersey and New York, including the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel and the Holland Tunnel.   These facilities are all potentially prime terrorist targets.  A successful strike on a bridge or tunnel, for instance, would be a devastating blow to the region, both in terms of lives lost and commerce disrupted.

In 1921, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was established to "promote and protect the commerce of the bistate port" within a 25-mile radius of the Statue of Liberty.  The Port Authority watches over the flow of people and products between the two states and into the area.  One of its greatest assets was the World Trade Center, which it built in the early 1970s.  Port Authority police officers proudly referred to the World Trade Center as "our house."  Many of the PAPD officers who rushed to the scene after the planes struck had been stationed at the Twin Towers at some point in their careers.

Every American was angered and saddened by the attacks, particularly the police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who responded directly to the tragedy.  But for the Port Authority police it was personal.  It was an assault on their house. 

"Stay awake!" Officer Jimeno urged his friend Dominick Pezzulo.  "Stay with me."

Officer Will Jimeno
Officer Will Jimeno

Pezzulo wasn't moving.  Fires burned all around them.  Jimeno could see light coming from above, but he couldn't see sky.  This gave him hope.  He and Pezzulo were trapped in a three-foot space, but the light indicated that they weren't buried solid. 

"Stay awake, Dominick," he said.  "No sleeping."

This time the weightlifter wasn't trying to dig himself out. 

Jimeno desperately wanted to get to his friend.  He wanted to do something to keep his friend from drifting off, but all he had was his voice. 

"Come on, Dominick.  Talk to me," Jimeno shouted.


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