Never Give Up

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If you are thrown seven times, you must get up eight.

As I was growing up, the thought of becoming a New York

City police officer never crossed my mind. In my teen

years I worked at many odd jobs, starting in Brooklyn’s

Prospect Park ice-skating rink and carousel. I ended up a

truck driver for a plumbing supply company, also in Brooklyn.

I remember taking a small amount of pride in that position,

since I had to work hard to earn the class-3 driver’s

license required to drive the truck. But as time went on, the

work became less and less interesting and my employment

status was at the mercy of the store staying in business. I decided

to look for something more secure and took several

civil service exams, including tests for police officer, firefighter,

sanitation worker, and other jobs. When I received

the letter from the police department indicating that I had

passed its entrance exam, I realized that it was the first time

I had a potential career to be zealous about.

In my 21 years with the police department, I have held a

host of assignments, each one more challenging than the

former. My work has ranged from, as a young policeman, performing

precinct foot and radio car patrol to plainclothes

anticrime assignments. I spent 16 exciting years with the

Emergency Service Unit (ESU), which is a tactical and rescue

unit of the NYPD. It was during my time in ESU that I would

find myself perched atop various New York City landmarks,

such as the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn

Bridge, in attempts to rescue suicidal individuals and

helping end their unremitting emotional pain. I served as a

police officer, sergeant, and lieutenant within various precincts

Source: Printed with permission from Jack J. Cambria.

and in ESU and always approached my work with compassion

and enthusiasm. The road to realizing my own personal

pinnacle of success did not come easily, but rather, was

achieved through hard work and perseverance. Reaching the

rank of lieutenant was only realized after taking two sergeant

and two lieutenant exams, which are given approximately

five years apart. I think if I had been discouraged after failing

my first sergeant’s test, I would never have had the job I now

hold and my life would have been drastically different.

My current, and probably my last, assignment in the police

department, is as commanding officer of the Hostage Negotiation

Team. Hostage negotiators are detectives who are asked

to attempt to resolve high-crisis situations using only their

words, thereby preventing a tactical deployment of the police

into a hostile environment. It is always better and safer to

have dangerous individuals come out to us, than to go in after

them. Complicated and interpersonal maneuverings are employed

in attempting to resolve these types of situations.

Perhaps the most arduous test of my fortitude came on

September 11, 2001. I first arrived at the World Trade Center

some 30 minutes after the South Tower had fallen, and I remained

there until late November, spending an average of 16

hours a day at the site to assist in the rescue and then recovery

effort. My experiences while assigned at Ground Zero will

be forever etched in my mind. Fourteen of the victims were

police officers assigned to ESU, whom I had the privilege of

personally serving with over the years. I also lost some very

close personal friends that day.

Several years ago, I was involved in martial arts training,

and I learned a very simple philosophy, which is so easily

applied to life: If you are thrown seven times, you must get

up eight. I think if we let ourselves be discouraged by life’s

various obstacles, we would not follow our dreams in pursuit

of our personal successes.