NYPD transit officer Carol Paukner was the inspiration for the book "We're Not Leaving." Photo: NAWLEE
While representing the board of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE), I attended a lecture given by Dr. Benjamin Luft, the author of a wonderful book that tells the personal stories of 9/11 responders called "We're Not Leaving."
The title of the book comes from the amazing story of one of NAWLEE's own, Officer Carol Paukner. Carol was in attendance at the Nov. 10 lecture and spoke to attendees about her personal experience as one of the first officers on the scene that fateful day. Carol answered numerous questions and was very moving as she detailed her thoughts and experiences.
Carol is an amazing woman who served as a New York City transit officer assigned to the World Trade Center area on Sept. 11, 2001. Carol was blown out of the building as the tower collapsed while she was trying to usher people out of the damaged structure. Although she was seriously injured and found it hard to breathe, she continued to pull people from the devastation that surrounded her. Even after being told that more planes were coming and that she should run, she stated, "We're not leaving; that's our job."
Luft, a professor of medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is the founder of the Long Island World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Center that serves approximately 6,000 9/11 responders for a variety of physical and mental issues due to their work at the World Trade Center.
Luft has also collected the oral histories of responders for a project that will ultimately end up at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear directly from those who can tell their courageous stories of immense personal sacrifice from their perspective. So it was fitting that the lecture was at the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Luft has established the website 911 Responders Remember, where people can view excerpts from the interviews and learn more about this hugely important project. Luft continues to look for those first responders who were involved in the events of 9/11. If you know of someone who can contribute to this historical project, please visit the website and let them know.
All of us at NAWLEE are honored to know Carol Paukner and thank her for her selfless acts. I'm honored to know her and to have her consider me a friend.
Katherine Perez is the assistant chief of the U.S. Federal Reserve System's law enforcement unit and a NAWLEE board member.