I never met Ferdinand Morrone. This is his story…
Before he ever became the Superintendent of the New York Port Authority Police, Ferdinand Morrone had a law enforcement career that most cops would envy. Born in Brooklyn, he started his career with the New Jersey State Police in 1963, and continued his education and got his PoliSci degree from Stockton State College in 1974. He followed that up with a masters in Public Administration from Rider University in 1977.
In 1981, Justin Dintino was running the Intelligence Unit of the State Police. He recalls;
I was running the Intelligence Unit… and he was assigned to me as an investigator. He was a tremendous investigator. He was like a bulldog. I would give him the toughest cases – organized crime, solid waste, and he would always deliver the goods. … If he got on your tail, you might as well cry uncle, because he was going to get you.
One of the last cases he worked as a State Policeman was the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He was one of a few dozen cops the NJSP lent to the feds to work the investigation. Morrone finished up his 30 years with the NJ State Police in 1993 and took his retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel. Cops like Fred didn’t just lay about the house though. By 1996, he had taken the job as the Superintendent of the Port Authority Police, a force that is in charge of all the transportation and shipping jurisdictions in NY and NJ. Still living in New Jersey, Fred would sometimes work at his office on the first floor of the World Trade Center, or sometimes from his office in Jersey City, depending on the day.
Superintendent Morrone wasn’t just a cop though. Even though he was always spoken of as a “Cop’s cop” he was also a devoted family man. His family, Fred, his wife Linda, and his three children, Fred, Alyssa, and Gregory always knew that he would be there for them if he could on holidays. Especially on Christmas, the family stuck to it’s traditions. He was also known for doting on his wife. For their 25th anniversary, Fred took Linda to Hawaii for a second honeymoon.
After he had started working for the Port Authority, he had even tried to learn to relax. He was used to being good at what he tried, so golf was a special challenge for him. “He was very athletic” his wife
said. He wasn’t very good at it. At first, it frustrated him. But he learned to be content doing something that he wasn’t adept at. “I thought it was great that he reached a point in his life that he was comfortable being bad at something he loved. It showed a real growth in him.
In his 5 years with the Port Authority, he was credited with establishing a residential training program at the Port Authority Police Academy, toughening the training standards for the recruits, creating the International School for Airport and Seaport Security, starting a program to train officers in the use of portable heart defibrulators, establishing bike patrols in the airports, starting a scuba team, a Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit, an Airborne Services Unit (Helicopters) and a Motorcycle Unit.
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Fred was working in Jersey City when the news came in. A plane had struck tower 1 of the World Trade Center, where Fred’s office was. As soon as the people who knew him heard about it, they didn’t need to ask. They knew he was on his way to help. He phoned his wife to let her know that he was going to the city to help. “To this day, people don’t understand why he went there” she said. But he was a “Cop’s cop. He would never send men to do a dangerous job if he wasn’t willing to go in there and do it himself.” She said it was the “Cop in him” that put him in the car that day and took him to Ground Zero.
The last time anyone saw Ferdinand Morrone, he was on the 45th floor of the World Trade Center. He was trying to evacuate as many people as he could, including many of his own men from offices on the 66th and 67th floors above. He was calmly going about his business and urging people to safety below. Within hours of the attack, the tower had collapsed, and Fred and nearly 3000 other souls were lost that day.
His wife and Children attended mass together on Christmas Day that year. “We tried to honor him” she said. “We wanted to keep the holidays as close to the way he would want us to celebrate them. We tried to honor my husband with the same family love and affection that we always showed each other during the holidays.”
On this, the 8th anniversary of that horrible day, I’d like to encourage people to remember Fred and the others like him who paid the ultimate price that day for nothing more than being Americans. Remember the huge price the New York and New Jersey law enforcement and fire departments paid for doing what they lived to do; to help people to safety under the most oppressive and dangerous conditions. Every day of their lives.
I was encouraged to do this memorial when I heard about Project 2996. The project is an attempt to memorialize the 2,996 people who perished that day on the ground and in the air as part of the terrorist attack on the American way of life. The idea behind the project is that a different blogger would write about each of the people that died that day in 1991.
I was saddened that just 8 years later, there weren’t going to be enough bloggers volunteering to be able to do a proper memorium for all 2,996 who perished. If you are a blogger, I challenge you to take this up next year and volunteer. There are 2,996 stories to be told, and we as American are too soon to forget. Too soon back to our routines, too soon forgetting the horror of that day, and how it outraged and galvanized us as a nation.
Please remember Ferdinand Morrone and his family today. And please remember the other 2,995 people who also lost their lives. Just for being Americans. Just for not having the same beliefs and values as the terrorists.
Thank you Ferdinand for not hesitating to help others that day. Rest in Peace. You sir, were a Great American.
And thank you Linda, Fred, Alyssa, and Gregory. God bless and God speed. We miss him too, even those of us who just got to know him. We can’t imagine your loss.