September 11th, 2001
By: Greg Porteus
On Sept 11, 2001, shortly after the buildings fell, myself, Wayne Pichardt, and Jim Picciano were doing security at the George Washington Bridge. We were met by a south-bound pleasure craft, and a passenger in the boat was 24 year old NYPD Police Officer Kevin O'Brien from the 42 Precinct in the Bronx. We advised the boat operator (I found out today the operator was Kevin's father, a Middletown Police Officer) that the Police Officer Kevin O'Brien could be transported to the World Trade Center by us. P.O. O'Brien grabbed his uniform and came underway with myself and Jim Picciano as we headed south-bound on the Hudson River. Wayne went to another boat to continue security at George Washington Bridge.
As we were underway, I told PO O'Brien to put his uniform on due to all of the chaos. Helicopters flying very low to keep the area secure and armed NYPD Launches were circling the Hudson. During the underway time, which was approximately 40 minutes, I spoke with Police Offocer O'Brien. I became very impressed with this dedicated, educated Police Officer with such an athletic build, and movie star looks. But what impressed me most of all was his commitment to serve the City Of New York during the city's worst day ever.
During our time together, Kevin spoke of his family, his girl-friend, and his desire to serve as a NYC Police Officer to the best of his ability. Police Officer O'Brien, knowing he could not get to the Trade Center by car, came to NYC via boat. This is strong evidence of his commitment to serve. As we approached North Cove Marina, the horror of the disaster was easy to see. There was white powder about 6" thick on the ground, flames, smoke and a person being put into a body bag.
We secured our boat to an NYPD Launch in North Cove Marina, and a uniformed Police Sergeant checked Kevin's Police ID, and told Kevin where to go. We shook hands with this brave Police Officer, and watched as Police Officer O'Brien walked towards what I can only describe as hell. There were flames, smoke, and death was very visible. I remember looking at Jim and saying, "Thank God we are serving on the water." I had no idea that 8 hours later I would be assisting in the make-shift morgue in a blown up Burger King.
At the "morgue" I met up with a very good friend of mine, Detective Annmarie Kelly, NYPD, who was also serving in the morgue. I had assisted Annmarie a few months earlier searching for her brother who drowned off Fire Island.
On October 3, 2001, after finishing my running workout at the Dam in Vahalla, NY I read in the NY Post: "Police Officer Kevin O'Brien NYPD 42 Precinct was killed in an auto accident after serving continuously since 911 at the World Trade Center". This took the air right out of me. Approximately 8 months later I was doing some work in New Canaan, Ct when I received a call from a Police Officer from the 42Precinct. The officer said "Are you the State Trooper that on 911 transported Police Officer Kevin O'Brien from the George Washington Bridge to the World Trade Center?". I answered that I was and he said, "Kevin's mother wants to talk to you". He gave my cell number to Mrs. O'Brien, and she called my cell a few mins later. She said "Say one sentence about my son and 911." This was one of the hardest sentences I ever had to say: " Mrs. O'Brien anytime you think or hear of a hero, a Police Officer, or a Soldier think of your son Police Officer Kevin O'Brien."
I described to her the events of that day. Our conversation was brief, and we never spoke again until August 23, 2011. I called the O'Brien residence and spoke with Mrs. O'Brien to invite her and her family to come underway on Launch 5 on September 11, 2011 to NY Harbor to attend the on-water ceremony. Mrs. O'Brien and I talked about her son. She told me that Kevin woke up screaming in the middle of the night, 4 days before he died. As she comforted him, he told her that he dreamed he was dead. Mrs. O'Brien indicated that she believes his service at the World Trade Center caused the nightmares. Mrs. O'Brien also told me today Kevin's older brother (18 months older), died of a drug over-dose 4 years to the day after Kevin died. I would ask all of you to pray for the O'Brien family.