Image of Captain Kathy N. Mazza

The Story of Captain Kathy N. Mazza

Image of Captain Kathy N. Mazza's badge

Badge and nameplate worn by PAPD Captain Kathy N. Mazza on 9/11. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center. Object photograph by Jaclyn Nash.

Kathy Mazza was no stranger to life-or-death situations. She began her career working as a cardiothoracic nurse in Queens and Long Island, New York, and friends and family knew that she was the person to call in an emergency. On one occasion, when her mother started complaining of chest pains, Mazza correctly diagnosed her blocked arteries and made sure she received medical attention. In 1987, Mazza made a career change, enrolling in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s (PANYNJ) police academy. As an officer in the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), she oversaw the agency’s certified first aid, Emergency Medical Technician, and first responder trainings, as well as initiated a program placing portable heart defibrillators in airports and training 600 officers to use them.

When she responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Mazza was one of the highest-ranking women in the PAPD: the first female commander of the PANYNJ’s police academy and one of only two female captains in the entire department. In the lobby of the North Tower, Mazza helped people evacuate the building, purportedly using her gun to shoot out a large plate-glass window so that more people could escape to safety. She and several colleagues were carrying a woman in an evacuation chair out of the building when the North Tower collapsed. Mazza was one of 37 PAPD officers killed as a result of the 9/11 attacks, and the first female PAPD officer killed in the line of duty.