- By Chelsea Todaro Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Growing up in a small Long Island, N.Y. town, Boynton Beach Police Capt. Paul Deale remembers the days his cousin Pamela Boyce babysat him.
“She called me her favorite cousin because “I was the easiest to take care of,” Deale, 54, told a crowd at Veterans Park on Tuesday morning. “She was my mother’s favorite niece.”
Deale eventually relocated to South Florida and has worked for the Boynton Police department for 22 years, but many of his friends and family, including Boyce, remained in New York.
Boyce, who was 43, worked in the North Tower of the World Trade Center and took the train to work from Brooklyn every day, Deale recalled. Around 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Boyce arrived to her office and noticed she had a coffee stain on her shirt, so she went to the shopping center in the basement of the towers to buy a new shirt, Deale said. She then walked with a friend across the street to grab what would be her last cup of coffee.
“As she was coming out of (the coffee shop) shrapnel from the plane that crashed into the first tower crushed her,” Deale said.
Boyce was one of the first victims to be identified from her dental records because she was killed outside of the two buildings, Deale said.
Al-Qaeda-affiliated hijackers had flown two Boeing 767 jets into the twin towers within minutes of each other. The attacks killed 2,606 people as well as all 157 on the planes. The falling debris from the towers and fires from many nearby buildings, led to the collapse of all the towers.
While honoring the victims and heroes at Veterans Park on Tuesday, Deale composedly told residents, city commissioners and local veterans how the day changed his life forever because of his New York roots.
“9/11 has a very traumatic effect on me,” Deale said. “For my generation 9/11 was like our Pearl Harbor — this day will always live in infamy.”
Deale spoke to the crowd while standing behind a beautiful granite plaque dedicated to the victims and heroes of 9/11 with the words engraved, “We Will Never Forget.”
The ceremony was one of many throughout Palm Bach County on Tuesday. Events in Tequesta, Wellington and Delray Beach also paid tribute to the victims.
Not only did Deale lose his cousin, but also several high school classmates. Deale called the names of 11 people who either died on 9/11, years later from cancer or whose relatives and friends died or suffered psychological illnesses.
Among the 11 names was Peter Brennan, who worked with the New York Fire Department. Brennan was supposed to be on vacation but covered a shift for a co-worker who needed time off from working a two-day shift. “He never came home to his wife and children that day,” Deale said of his high school classmate.
Deale said a friend he played football with in high school worked with the New York Police Department. It was only a couple of years ago that he stopped having daily night terrors from working at ground zero.
“For months on end (officials) worked on Ground Zero,” Deale said of the World Trade Center site. “Ground Zero is is what the media called it, but (firefighters) called it ‘the pile.’”
Deale described how firefighters and police officers sorted through “the pile,” dividing it into two boxes — one of personal belongings and the other of body parts to help identify the victims.
“They would put fingers and ears in one box, and wallets and watches into another — basically anything they could identify someone from,” Deale said.
Through all the tragedy, Deale said he is able to keep Boyce and his classmates’ memories alive by sharing their stories with his two daughters, who were born after 9/11.
Deale said his daughters recently visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City and outlined Boyce’s name on a sheet of paper. They then called Deale via Facetime to show him Boyce’s name.
“I broke out into tears,” Deale said. “It was such a touching moment that my two daughters remembered my story.”
Following Deale’s memorable speech, Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Chief Glenn Joseph conducted a moment of silence for the victims. Faces in the crowd filled with tears as they remembered their loved ones.
Joseph and Boynton Police Chief Michael Gregory placed a flower wreath in front of the granite plaque. A three-volley salute followed, along with the sound of taps that kept the mood solemn. Chaplain Brannon closed the ceremony with a heartfelt benediction.