taps played, the flag folding detail holds the curtin for SgtMaj. Michael
Curtin, USMCR (Ret.). Curtin, an officer with the Emergency Services Unit in
the New York Police Department, was killed during the Sept. 11 terrorist
attack on New York City. A memorial service was held in Patchogue, N.Y. Nov.
17 honoring his service to the NYPD and the United States Marine Corps.Photo
by: SSgt. Robert Knoll
firing detail from the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. stands at attention
as the family and friends of SgtMaj. Michael Curtin, USMCR (Ret.) file out
of the church after his memorial service. Curtin, an NYPD Emergency Services
Unit officer, was killed during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York
City's World Trade Center.
by: SSgt. Robert Knoll
PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (November 20, 2001) -- With warm rays of
light illuminating the blue stained glass, a mass of people
mourned. They were there to honor a legend. That legend had
impacted thousands of lives and helped so many people. He was
cop's cop and a Marine's Marine. And on this crisp November
morning, it was time to say goodbye to the friend and father who
died doing what he loved - helping people.
Sergeant Major Michael Curtin, USMCR (Ret.),
also a sergeant in the New York City Police Department, was
honored in a memorial service at Our Lady Mt. Carmel church on
Long Island Saturday.
"There are a number of people in the New York
City Police Department who were heroes far before that day. In
looking at Michael's history with the NYPD, it was apparent that
he was a hero long before Sept. 11. He was a Marine," Bernard
Kerik, police commissioner said.
"He was someone that loved his country, loved
his department and most importantly, he loved his girls, all
four of them," Kerik added.
Curtin was not only one of the first
responders to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. He was also one of
the first to respond to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade
Center. In addition, he received a great deal of notoriety for
actions when he was deployed as a member of the NYPD Emergency
Services Unit to the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.
During the rescue and recovery efforts in
Oklahoma, Curtin was walking past an area that had been checked
previously for casualties. Out of the corner of his eye, he
caught a glimpse of some blue material with a red strip on it.
He knew exactly what it was, the dress blue trouser leg of a
Marine. He had discovered the remains of Capt. Randy Guzman, an
officer in charge of the recruiting office at the Oklahoma City
Because the dangerous location, Curtin and a
few others had to request special permission to endanger
themselves to recover Guzman's remains. They were granted a
four-hour window and were able to recover the body. The part of
the whole recovery that caught the Nation's attention was how
Guzman was carried out. A U.S. flag was draped over his body and
it was ceremoniously saluted as they took it from the site.
When asked why he risked his own life to
recover the remains of another Marine he simply replied, Marines
don't leave their own behind.
He was just as passionate about his work with
the NYPD. He was often in dangerous situations risking his own
life to save others. He recently saved a man who got trapped in
a building that collapsed in Harlem. Later the man who was saved
said that he would have died if it weren't for Curtin. "I want
to tell his family that police are good people - he is a good
"There are thousands of people in New York
City that are still alive because of Mike Curtin, because of who
he was, because of what he was, and because of what he was all
about," Kerik said. "To his country, to his city, to his family,
Mike Curtin was a hero and he one of the best people who ever
wore the NYPD uniform."
Curtin's service to the city never went
unnoticed. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said that Curtin's service
to the city made him proud. "When I come to a memorial service
like this, it gives me great strength and inspiration ... and it
makes me feel very, very proud that we have people that defend
America and defend New York and it shows strength and bravery."
The mayor said that what Curtin and his fellow
officers of the NYPD, New York City Fire Department and the Port
Authority of New York did inspired an entire nation in its fight
against terrorism. "(Americans are) exuding patriotism very
honestly in a way that we've never seen before, and the reason
they're doing it is because they understand something that
Michael and those who were involved in this rescue effort
understood. They understand that we're being attacked because
Listening to the mayor's words in the front
row were "the Curtin girls." They knew what their father did and
what he was all about. "You can't take your daddy away from you,
it can't be done. It's not possible. You have something that
lots of children don't have; you have the absolute sure
knowledge that your dad was a great man, an American patriot,
and we thank you very much," Giuliani said.
The front of the church was adorned with
tributes to Curtin's service in the Marine Corps and the NYPD. A
huge sergeant major chevron made of flowers stood next to an
Emergency Services Unit insignia also made of flowers.
Additionally, his Marine Corps dress blues and his ESU uniform
were both displayed side-by-side directly in front of the
podium. His service to the country and the city was well
Rev. Robert Romano, one of NYPD's chaplains and a good
friend of Curtin, took a few moments to outline his life while
comparing it to the Marine Corps' recruiting slogan, "The Few,
The Proud, The Marines."
"There were few supervisors like Mike Curtin
in the police department. He was the type of guy that got
involved. He was a hands on kind of guy. He was the kind of guy
that wanted to make sure that everything was done the right way,
and it wasn't always the Curtin way, but it usually turned out
that way," he said.
"He was proud. Proud of his wife Helga. He
talked about you a lot," Romano told her. "He couldn't play any
tricks on you because you were a Marine also." As those in
attendance chuckled, Romano explained that Curtin was proud of
his girls, the police department and the ESU, especially Truck
2. "Truck 2 was his life."
"He was a Marine. Sergeant major was in his
blood," Romano added. Last year at the NYPD-USMC Association
Birthday Celebration at 1 Police Plaza, Curtin was honored with
an award of his actions in Oklahoma City. Hearing the story last
year impacted Romano in big way. "It brought tears to my eyes
(hearing about) when Mike was in Oklahoma City. How he had a
quest to find those Marines who were left behind, and like a
good Marine he knew that he had to bring them home."
As heroic and brave as Curtin was, he was also a modest
person, Romano said. "He would probably say to all of us today,
stop all of this, it's not necessary. This is not me. There was
a job to be done and I did it, I did it the best way I could."
Never forgotten in any of the remarks about
Curtin's life were his wife and children. They were held in the
highest regards for their courage and sacrifice. With her strong
Long Island accent, she described her amazement about their
relationship. "Twenty-two years ago, if someone would have said
that Mike and I would be together, I'd say, 'Your crazy.' After
all, I was just a PFC in the Marine Corps and Mike was this
drill instructor, who knew?" And later, she said that if someone
would have said that anything could keep them apart, she would
have said, "That's impossible."
She described her husband as the perfect
person for her, a rough and tough Marine with a very soft and
cuddly side for his girls. "I could stand here for days and tell
you about Mike and the things he loved, like watching our girls
play soccer and basketball and going to track meets. Or the
pride he took working around the house putting on a new roof,
after ripping it off, and his pursuit of brewing that perfect
batch of Australian Blonde beer that we've never tasted - Mike
so loved life and the pleasures it brought him."
At the conclusion of the remarks, the family and guests
filed out of the church to where hundreds of police officers and
Marines stood at attention. The family members, dressed in dark
clothing stood closely together giving each other support with
Helga and her daughters in front.
Slowly, a flag detail from the Marine Barracks in
Washington D.C. unfolded a 5' by 9' flag until it was pulled
tightly among the six Marines. Cracking the still air was the
sound of 21 rifle shots with two trumpeters playing taps. At the
conclusion of taps, the flag bearers carefully folded the flag
into a tight, blue triangle for presentation to Helga. The
Marine Corps presented it to the NYPD who presented it to Helga.
Concluding the service was a pass and review
of the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums playing the Marines'
Hymn before the Emergency Service's Hummer escorted the Curtin
family to the reception hall.
"What happened on September 11th is something
that will be with me for every day of my life yet we know
somehow we'll pass through it. Time goes on. But it reminds us
of the sole appreciation that we've always had for our family,
our friends our community and our country. He will be missed
forever," Helga said.