(First posted on August 31, 2009)
Just One of the Thousands of Lives Lost on September 11, 2001: Officer John Joseph Lennon, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department
A tribute to Officer Jay Lennon by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund notes that Officer Lennon’s daughter was watching an interview with a survivor from the World Trade Center on the day of the terrorist attacks. The man said that he, and many others, owed their lives to an “Officer Lennon,” who had led them out of the smoke-filled building. When he turned to thank him, he said, the officer was already heading back inside. Minutes later the tower collapsed.
In Officer Lennon and in all the 84 Port Authority personnel who were killed, as well as the other police officers and firefighters, the hatred and destructive power of evil manifested in the jihadist terrorist attacks came face to face with the power of goodness and love. It is estimated that over 25,000 people were saved because of the officers from local, state, and federal agencies who gave their lives saving the lives of others.
Married to Patricia, who had been his sweetheart since they were 15 years old, living in adjacent Brooklyn neighborhoods, Officer Lennon had told a friend that when he was 16 years old, he knew the girl he was going to marry. The New York Times Portraits of Grief quotes Patricia as saying, “It was love at first sight. . . . I never had a desire to look at anyone else, and neither did he.” They got married at 23, and have four children, John III, Melissa, Katie, and Christopher.
Officer John Joseph Lennon served in the Port Authority Police Department for 21 years. For most of that time he was with the Emergency Service and Rescue Unit, but early in 2001 he took a new job as a Court Liaison in Jersey City. On 9/11 he could have been out of harm’s way, but when he heard the news of the terrorist attacks, he immediately went to the World Trade Center.
Howell, New Jersey, Officer Lennon’s home, lost five of its citizens on 9/11. There are three 9/11 memorials in Howell – at the town Municipal Center, the Squankum Firehouse, and Howell High School. And there is another memorial at Mount Mitchell Scenic Overlook, a Monmouth County, New Jersey park “that sits on the highest natural elevation from Maine to the Yucatan,” and provides perfect view of the New York City skyline. This memorial includes a walkway that chronicles the events of 9/11, a stone base carved with the names, ages, and hometowns of the county residents who were killed, and a sculpture of an eagle, taking flight, clutching in its talons a beam from one of the fallen towers.
The 9/11 memorial at Mount Mitchell Scenic Overlook says that 147 Monmouth County, New Jersey residents were killed in the terrorist attacks. Another source says that 169 were killed. Either way, all over Monmouth County, commuter railroad stations and parking lots were filled with cars of people who never came home.