Among the 20,000 names engraved in stone, guarded by lions cast in bronze, six names had their inscriptions on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial delayed, until a cadre of FBI agents and their former director, James B. Comey, got involved.
The names found on the white walls of Judiciary Square memorialize those who gave their lives in the line of duty. But for FBI agents who died after they rushed towards burning buildings on September 11th, the issue for some became far more complex.
They lost their lives because of 9/11 illnesses, cancer caused by potent and poisonous fumes emanating from the debris. Their deaths, not on the new day of infamy, but years later.
FBI Special Agent Jerry D. Jobe died on Sept. 11, 2010, nine years after he began recovering evidence at the Pentagon.
In eight cases, bureaucracy blocked the FBI from adding the names of 9/11 responders to the nation’s law enforcement memorial. Tests in some instances could not conclusively prove cancer was caused by toxins floating among the rubble.
“About three years ago when Director Comey came in, we had been trying to get some traction on this recognition of these agents’ line of duty deaths,” said Thomas F. O’Connor, a special agent with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and president of the FBI Agents Association. “Director Comey came in and picked right up on it.”
O’Connor added, “[Comey] was instrumental in realizing these were in the line of duty deaths.”
Four fallen agents from the FBI Washington field office responded to the Pentagon, and are now on the memorial walls: Robert M. Roth, Jerry D. Jobe, Wesley J. Yoo, and Steven A. Carr.
Two FBI agents who responded to the crash of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa also have their names recently inscribed on the walls: Paul Wilson and Bob Craig.
Two others are still in the queue to have their names added. Gerald Senatore sifted through World Trade Center debris sent to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. Rex Stockham was part of the team that responded to the crash scene in Pennsylvania.
“Over 50 names of officers who responded on 9/11 went up on the wall this year, six of those being the names of the FBI agents,” O’Connor said. “Without leadership from Director Comey, that wouldn’t have happened.”
O’Connor and his wife, fellow FBI Agent Jean K. O’Connor, took major roles in the effort to include those who died after the terror attacks. But as he stood by the memorial wall, with families gathered on the grounds for National Police Week, O’Connor said the vigilance will continue, as more names may still need to be added.
“We have 15 agents who are still sick from 9/11 exposure,” O’Connor said. “We need to make sure if the worst happens, they have a place among these men and women on the walls.”
The core team involved spanned the Bureau, including FBI Executive Assistant Director Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director David Schlendorf, Chief Medical Officer Mike Huff, Supervisory Special Agent Scott Stanley, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bryan Vorndran, and Dr. Daniel Parks.
FBI Agents Association legal counsel Dee Martin and Josh Zive also assisted in the effort required to add the names to the memorial.