Tags: Exclusive Interviews | MidPoint | september 11 | anniversary | new york | safety | threat

Ex-NYPD Detective: 'We Are a Very Vulnerable Target'

By    |   Thursday, 11 September 2014 04:54 PM

The sergeant in charge of the Manhattan Detectives squad on Sept. 11, 2001 told Newsmax TV on Thursday that 13 years later he still struggles to describe how it felt to live through "the worst disaster that ever hit this city." 

But retired NYPD Det. Sgt. Wally Zeins, who was immersed in 9/11 response and recovery in the hours, days and weeks afterward, had no trouble telling "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner that everyone — not just New York's Finest — is responsible for helping to keep history from repeating. 

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"I do feel safer, but we have to be more vigilant," said Zeins. "We really do."

"We have to all work together," he said. "And that's not just the law enforcement community, it's all of us. It's the media, the public — anyone and anything that can help to put this to an end. We are a very vulnerable target. I'm not just saying New York City; I'm talking about the whole United States."

Zeins looked back on 9/11 in a detailed and sometimes graphic account of the first airplane striking 1 World Trade Center and the events that followed.

"I thought I saw everything in my career until that morning, when I was coming down the West Side Highway" to work, he said. "My dispatcher told me that we had a small plane that hit the World Trade Center. I was there and I can see the damage — it wasn't a small plane."

The police department raced to set up a command post at the Downtown Athletic Club, blocks from the Trade Center, as Zeins and others were still trying to absorb what was happening.

"[A]nd then the next plane hit," he said.

Amid the chaos that followed— the inability of cops and firefighters to communicate by radio; the collapse of the twin towers — Zeins would later count himself lucky only because of where he was.

Instead of going from the Athletic Club to the burning towers, "I just got called from my chief to come over to his office," he said.

"Just as I left, the [first] tower went down," said Zeins.

When he finally did return to the collapsed towers, and the rubble from which few people would emerge alive, said Zeins, "I saw only one complete body. After that, it was just body parts."

Zeins would spend three months helping to identify human remains brought to a makeshift morgue at a pier on the Hudson River.

"I can't explain to you what it was like to see a turnout coat of a firefighter coming into the morgue, you open it up and it's just dust," he said.

To go with the private horrors and the widespread feeling of devastation, there were the mundane frustrations of a massive, overlapping investigation in which agencies sometimes clashed — "and shame on us for that aspect," said Zeins.

But he also recalled moments that lifted his spirits.

"It was very rewarding to see all the first responders and all people that came in there to help us from all over the world," he said. "It was a team effort.

"One of the things I learned that was so important is that you have to share information. With today's climate, everyone — whether in law enforcement, or federal or local state [agencies] — has to be able to share information, [so] that we're all on the same page," said Zeins.

Zeins said that today he attends seminars in which possible terror scenarios are drawn up and discussed for ideas on prevention and, in the worst cases, response afterward: someone strapping explosives to a traveling pet that's placed into a jet's cargo hold; terrorists taking an entire school hostage.

"There are so many what-ifs, and all those what-ifs have to be investigated and looked into," he said. "And we all have to be extremely vigilant."

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The sergeant in charge of the Manhattan Detectives squad on Sept. 11, 2001 told Newsmax TV on Thursday that 13 years later he still struggles to describe how it felt to live through "the worst disaster that ever hit this city."
september 11, anniversary, new york, safety, threat
Thursday, 11 September 2014 04:54 PM
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