New on View: Pages from Lt. William Keegan’s Diary from Ground Zero

The handwritten notes of Port Authority Police Department Lt. William Keegan are seen in his opened diary.
Pages from PAPD Lt. William Keegan’s diary, now on view in the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s Historical Exhibition.

A diary kept by Port Authority Police Department Lt. William Keegan, on view in the After 9/11 section of the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s historical exhibition, now opens to a set of new pages.

Keegan, night-shift supervisor at Ground Zero during the nine-month recovery period, maintained a personal log from Nov. 23, 2001, to July 14, 2002, to record practical issues and specific job-related interactions that arose during his shift. Given the overwhelming, emotionally taxing and often unpredictable nature of the recovery operations, maintaining the diary provided Keegan with an opportunity to regain some clarity as he managed his on-site work.

Initially, the diary recorded reminders of the shifting terrain and areas searched. In it, he also tracked the outcome of daily meetings, decisions about grappler placement, safety advisories and other notable activity that had transpired on site. For instance, on Jan. 22, 2002, Keegan wrote of an intruder:

“NYPD arrests w/PAPD assist of one M/W 20s, drove veh., thru (3) checkpoints recklessly nearly striking responding foot officers of NY state police and NYPD veh. Stops at Jersey barrier above West Slurry Wall, subject throws ladder into WTC hole, allegidly [sic] states ‘I came to bless the place,’ NYPD Lt. Campisi assigns arrest to P.O. Danile…”

As time went on, Keegan relied on the diary for emotional release, finding it therapeutic to write down some of the difficulties he was experiencing as he worked to locate and recover human remains, often, those of missing members of his department who had been valued colleagues and friends.

In an oral history he recorded with the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Keegan recounted the disconnection in mood between the high-profile visits and ceremonies conducted at Ground Zero during the daytime versus the solitude of the night shift. “At night, it was nothing but work… there was just the pile,” Keegan reflected.

The new pages on view, which cover his shifts from Jan. 20 to Jan. 22, 2002, highlight the recovery of equipment and personal property, as well as many of the ongoing safety obstacles that were being encountered at the World Trade Center site. Periodically, pages will be refreshed in the display case as part of the Museum’s ongoing practice of rotating light-sensitive objects. 

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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