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Nyack Sketch Log: On 9/11, I Remember a Hero, John Perry

by Bill Batson NSL107_with revisions
On 9/11, I think of my friend John Perry. He was a New York City beat cop who was also active in the American Civil Liberties Union. Yes, he was a rare bird. Not sufficiently fulfilled by police work, he completed law school, passed the bar and accepted a position at a law firm. He went to One Police Plaza on September 11, 2001 to hand in his badge and shield and start his life as a lawyer.
I waved goodbye to John at around 7a on the morning of the attack as he descended the stairs at the 72nd street IRT. We were working on a political campaign together and had been up since 5a  hanging campaign posters. I walked away from the train station, enjoying the crisp almost autumn air and thinking “what a perfect day for an election and for John to end one career and start another.”
John was a star volunteer on the campaign I was managing: Norman Siegel for New York City Public Advocate. Our headquarters was in a store front on 72nd Street between Broadway and Columbus Avenues. NSL_John Perry_portrait
As the planes struck the towers of the World Trade Center, you could hear the cell phone of almost every person walking down the street ring simultaneously, as news of what happened traveled by word of mouth. A crowd formed in front of the hardware store next to our office. People watched in stunned silence as the smoke billowed skyward from the South Tower on TV sets displayed in their window. Others walked to the corner of Broadway to see the actual plume rising from the carnage with their own eyes. I thought to myself, “John is down there, trying to save lives.”

Nyack Chamber of Commerce’s 30th Annual September Street Fair Honors Patriot Day

Sunday, September 11 from 10a to 5p — Rain or Shine — Free Admission  Live Bands, Street Performers, Amazing Grace Circus! and hundreds of specialty vendors celebrate life and triumph over terror
This year’s fair honors the memory of all who perished on 9/11 and celebrates the heroism of all 9/11 responders — especially those from the local community who gave their lives in the effort to save the lives of others.
A brief ceremony of remembrance at 10a will celebrate the courage and sacrifices of all first responders and victims at Main Street and Broadway— with special honors to Nyack residents Jon Albert, Stacey Sennas McGowan, Harry Wanamaker and Welles Remy Crowther, the “man in the red bandana.”
Red bandanas will be worn by many of the vendors and fair participants, and The Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust will be represented among the booths at the fair.

The Concert for Remembrance Orchestra

Sun, September 18th at 5p at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 First Ave, Nyack, In Memory of the Victims and Heroes of September 11th, attend a performance of The Concert for Remembrance Orchestra with Edward Simons, Music Director and Conductor Holly Druckman, Conductor. Admission is free.

Celebration of Hometown Heroes

Village of Nyack will conduct its annual 9/11 Celebration of Hometown Heroes in Memorial Park at 6:30 pm.

According to eyewitnesses, John saw the first plane hit while he was leaving One Police Plaza. He was seen buying an NYPD tee-shirt from a street vendor. He needed the shirt because he had just given up his badge, but that didn’t stop him from being a cop and doing his job on the day he was needed most. Later, he was seen racing into the towers. He was never seen alive again.
His mother started calling the campaign office around 9:30a. I think I still have several of the phone message slips that campaign volunteers used to record her pleas. She wanted to know if we had seen her son. When I told her that I had seen him heading downtown before the attack, she fell silent. We both knew.
About an hour after the first tower collapsed, a steady stream of men and women, all painted gray from pulverized concrete, with tears cutting paths through their dust covered faces, marched past our store front. They walked aimlessly, like refugees. Some people who lived to the south, in Brooklyn, marched north, driven by fear and confusion.
The Board of Elections cancelled balloting. We comforted each other and some of the wandering masses. News of the Pentagon attack caused a feeling a dread. Were there more passenger plane missiles heading our way? Yet the enormity of it all left us numb, not panicked.
We couldn’t send any campaign staff or volunteers home because the bridges and tunnels were closed, so we sheltered in place. Under a sky so cloudless it mocked us, we thought about the man who had walked away that morning and would never come back; a man who was in the end, what he always was: the best of us.
On 9/11, I remember a hero, John Perry.

Sun, September 18th at 5p at Grace Episcopal Church, Nyack’s Lezlee Peterzell will perform an acoustic version of her newest recorded song “One Red Bandana” at The Concert for Remembrance Orchestra. Click here to listen to the song, that features Welles Remy Crowther’s mother Alison. 

This sketch log was originally published on September 11, 2011 for the ten year anniversary of the attack.

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An artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “On 9/11 I remember John Perry”  © 2016 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.


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