Forgot to Bring the Gravy: Wife of PAPD Lieutenant Cirri Recalls Thanksgiving Holiday Ruse

Robert D. Cirri is seated next to his wife Eileen on their engagement date. An image below shows Cirri’s name on the 9/11 Memorial.
Robert D. Cirri, Sr. seated next to his wife, Eileen, on their engagement date. Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, gift of Eileen Mary Cirri.

As American families gather for Thanksgiving dinner each November, they often have the opportunity to learn more about their loved ones and those special dynamics that exist between family members. For couples like Robert C. Cirri Sr. and his wife, Eileen, those insights could be discovered over something as mundane as gravy.

Port Authority Police Lieutenant Cirri met his second wife Eileen while she was an emergency room nurse working in New Jersey. Cirri, who at the time was working nights as a paramedic, would bring patients into the ER.

According to Eileen, it was love at first sight. They struck up conversation right there in the hospital and were ultimately married on June 4, 1999. This marriage was the second for both. Cirri and Eileen each brought three children into their new blended family.

In a StoryCorps recording that Eileen conducted with Robert’s friends back in 2008, she recounts how Thanksgiving dinner was one of the times when their families could gain that special insight into their relationship. According to Eileen, Robert was a very sarcastic and quick-witted man. When they would sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, he would seemingly start an argument with Eileen about who was supposed to bring the gravy in from the kitchen.

The family seated around the table would tense up as the ensuing banter between the two became more heated, but ultimately it was a ruse—a carefully orchestrated exchange that enabled the couple to steal a private moment together in the kitchen to share a kiss, once they both offered in exasperation to go get the gravy. 

Additional memories about Cirri from his friends and family are on display in the Museum’s “In Memoriam” gallery, where visitors can access additional audio clips and photographs through the touchscreen tables. 

Anyone interested in leaving a recording in memory of a loved one can do so by using the on-site recording booths at the Museum, using Call to Remember, or by making an appointment with the Museum’s oral historian. To learn more, contact or call (212) 312-8800 x3.

By Tara Prout, Memorial Exhibition and Registries Manager, 9/11 Memorial Museum

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