Honoring 23 members of the NYPD who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the NYC Police Benevolent Association (PBA) marked the 20th anniversary of the day of infamy with the unveiling of a new memorial wall at the union’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 7.
The portrait series, titled “23 Remembered,” was commissioned by Brothers Before Others and painted by Philadelphia Police Officer Jonny Castro, a forensic artist who paints portraits of fallen police officers and military members killed in the line of duty. A plaque on the memorial wall also pays tribute to the hundreds of police officers who have died of 9/11- related illnesses.
Addressing the families of the fallen NYPD members who attended the unveiling, PBA President Patrick Lynch opined that some have become complacent and say it is time to move on, but that he was “from the school, on Sept. 11, the world should stop, all should remember, all should cry because our city, our heroes, our country, was attacked.”
“Saying get past it, we can’t,” Lynch said. “And we shouldn’t.”
Lynch vowed that it was their job to make sure that the legacy of the NYPD officers who died on 9/11, and those who are succumbing to 9/11-related illnesses, live on for generations to come.
“It’s our job to keep telling those stories,” Lynch said. “I believe it’s our moral obligation.”
NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes said that she had seen a lot throughout her 34-year career with the NYPD, “but our fallen heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice during 9/11.”
“These brave men and women exhibited commitment and passion, and most importantly selflessness, just like the NYPD officers do every day,” Holmes said while echoing Lynch’s sentiment “to never forget.”
The families of the fallen NYPD officers were visibly moved when they saw the paintings of their loved ones.
Some lovingly touched the portraits, while others broke out in tears at the sight of their departed.
Janet Kloepfer, the mother of NYPD P.O. Ronald Kloepfer, said the portrait of her son was breathtaking.
“A little full in the cheeks, but whatever it is, it’s beautiful to me,” Mrs. Kloepfer said.
Officer Kloepfer was one of seven children, and Mrs. Kloepfer shared that he was very handsome, not just “because he is mine, but he was a very nice looking boy.”
She called him her go-to son and that he was always there to help.
“He gave his life for all of us. And I’m sure he saved many people,” Mrs. Kloepfer added.
She also had a message for everyone as the 20th anniversary is nearing: “Forget your anger with each other, and join and be friends. A handshake, or good morning or good deed, or a cup of coffee. That’s what the world should be doing instead of fighting and killing and stabbing and everything else.”
For five years, Castro, a forensic composite artist, decided to use his skills to paint portraits of fallen police officers. He has done over 1000 paintings for free, and it took him about four months to paint the 23 images of New York City’s fallen heroes.
“I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of this. I’m honored,” Castro said. “This is a privilege for me to be here.”
He said it was the most emotional unveiling he had done: “There were a lot of tears, a lot of smiles.”