Suffolk County Court Employee Retirees' Association

911 Remembrance

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Sgt. Mitchel Wallace, an EMT, dragged his medical bag to Ground Zero where he treated bleeding patients amid falling debris and chaos.

Capt. Harry Thompson stood tall as he courageously ushered evacuees to safety while sacrificing his own.

Sgt. Thomas Jurgens was told not to go back into the flaming World Trade Center but defied orders in an act of heroism. Before he died he carried a woman to safety.

Then, the New York State court officer of four years ran into the South Tower that would collapse minutes later.

"They did not lose their lives they gave them," said Capt. Rick Rosenfeld, a first responder who spoke at an annual ceremony on Centre Street to remember his three fallen brothers, court officers who were compelled to join the rescue effort on Sept. 11, 2001.

Wallace "was rendering medical aid to complete strangers" while Thompson "remained calm, poised and focused," Rosenfeld added.

Juergens, he said, flashed a smile and thumbs up before running into the burning building.

Friday's ceremony ahead of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 was attended by hundreds of members of the courts community including clerks, judges, lawyers and others who fondly remembered the three first responders who volunteered their services and lost their lives.

Thompson, Wallace and Jurgens were among the roughly two dozen court officers who rode a jury bus to the World Trade Center, just blocks away from their courthouses, and selflessly started working to save lives.

They were there initially to try to help personnel at a court inside 7 World Trade Center but never made it that far. So they began to assist the public outside of building 5, according to the commanding officer at the time, Maj. Reginald Mebane.

Attending the commemoration for the first time since his 2002 retirement Mebane, who led nearly two dozen men to the towers, said he came to honor the memory of his fallen brothers.

"I owe it to them and I owe it to their families. I love them," he said.

Mebane said he narrowly survived the collapse of the South Tower as he, other officers, and emergency personnel were trapped inside the lobby of a building.

The visit brought back emotions and the vivid memories of the last time he saw his longtime friend Thompson, and Wallace and Jurgens, two officers he regarded highly and admired.

He tried to stop Jurgens from running back into the South Tower just before its collapse, Mebane said.

"I said, 'Hey, don't go back in there.' Tommy said, 'No they need me they need me. They need my help.' And he went back in and that was the last time I saw him," Mebrane said after the ceremony.

Mebane, a Vietnam War veteran and retired Marine, said he never lost a soldier on a mission in the war and was hearbroken at the loss of the court officers who served under him.

Each year current and former colleagues of Thompson, Wallace and Jurgens attend a service at The Church of St. Andrew and process to 111 Centre St., where a memorial of photos, clippings and other mementos is proudly displayed by a group of volunteers.

Thompson, a 27-year-veteran of the courts, was remembered as a kind and caring boss and a "spit and shine" type who was a stickler for a clean uniform. He died at age 51.

Jurgens, 26, was a newlywed and a member of the Army reserves. Colleagues said he was known as "the kid" and remember his him as a personable and friendly guy.

The 34-year-old Wallace was not even at work yet when he got off the subway, saw the commotion and rushed toward Ground Zero. The trained EMT was engaged to be married to a woman he had treated years earlier.

The woman he was planning to marry called him and pleaded with him to go to safety.

"I can't there are bodies there. I have to help," Wallace told her, according to reports.

The officers were honored again at the 60 Centre St. courthouse on Friday afternoon by the state's top judges including the state court system's Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Fern Fisher, the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Courts in New York City.

By Shayna Jacobs,
Follow Shayna on Twitter @Shayna_DNAinfo

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