Interpreting the Last Column: PAPD Team Romeo Marking

In this historical photo, the Last Column stands at Ground Zero during the cleanup of the site. An American flag has been placed atop the column. Piles of debris and other construction equipment are seen in the background.
The Last Column at Ground Zero, Gift of BC Tony Brunco

In this series, 9/11 Memorial & Museum exhibitions staff share the stories behind the markings and tributes placed on the Last Column. The Last Column was the final piece of steel to be removed from the World Trade Center site marking the completion of the nine-month recovery period. A symbol of resilience and marker of loss, it now stands in the Museum’s Foundation Hall bearing its memorial tributes. If you signed or left a tribute on the column and would like to share your story, please write to exhadmin@911memorial.org.

On 9/11 and in the following days, many retired Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) officers self-dispatched to Ground Zero to search for survivors. Expecting that officials would soon ask those without credentials to leave the site, some of these officers worked with the PAPD’s newly appointed Chief of Department, Joseph Morris, to form an official search and recovery team composed of retired PAPD members.

Ten retired officers and two active officers who had sustained medical injuries prior to 9/11 and were working clerical positions, formed the team which became known as Team Romeo. The name derives from the retired status of many of its members, employing the phonetic alphabet traditionally used for radio transmissions. In this alphabet, Romeo stands for the letter R. 

The 12 members of Team Romeo included Joseph Audino, Lawrence Ayers, Kenneth Cordo, William Haubert, Ty McCall, Pat McLoughlin, Redmond James O’Hanlon, Rich Radoian, Dom Ricigliano, Bob Sakacs, John Soltes and Tony Zeoli.

Members of Team Romeo worked at Ground Zero because they wanted to help reunite families with their loved ones, including the 37 PAPD officers who died as a result of the attacks. Their work at the site also supported the PAPD, which did not have as many active officers as other responding agencies to participate in search and recovery work.

Initially assigned to work during the day, in early October 2001 Team Romeo started working night shifts, which were short-staffed. They continued working nights, in 12-hour shifts, for the duration of the recovery period. Team Romeo members searched for victims’ remains and supported other PAPD teams at the site. By the end of the recovery period, most Team Romeo members had worked more than 2,000 hours each at Ground Zero.

"PAPD Team Romeo" marking on the Last Column.

On the evening of May 28, 2002, shortly before the Last Column was cut from its footing at the site, Team Romeo member William Haubert signed the piece of steel “PAPD Team Romeo” on behalf of his colleagues and friends. When the Last Column was ceremonially removed from the site two days later to mark the formal end of the recovery period, Team Romeo members formed part of the honor guard. Positioned at the bottom of the ramp, they accompanied the steel out of the site. Since that day, Team Romeo members have kept in touch and continue to offer support to one another.

By Katherine Fleming, Exhibition Research Specialist, 9/11 Memorial Museum

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