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U.S. Marshals Service

Twenty Years Later, the U.S. Marshals Service Remembers September 11, 2001

It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since the tragic Tuesday morning known as “9/11.” Most people recall where they were when two planes struck the World Trade Center (WTC) towers in New York, when a plane destroyed a section of the Pentagon in Virginia, or when brave passengers thwarted another attack by forcing their plane down into a Pennsylvania field. The tragedy spawned unimagined levels of fear, anger, and patriotism in Americans. More than any other event of the new century, 9/11 changed America. Modern American society is often partitioned into life before and after that day.

While most Americans huddled around TV sets waiting to see what would come next, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) mobilized its resources to perform activities that kept our country going in the early days after the attacks. Although some individual experiences were published at the time, those articles represented a mere sliver of a larger effort. As is the way of first responders, members of America’s oldest federal law enforcement agency diligently carried out their duties whether in camera range or not and took on new duties as required.

The processing of fragmented memories continues into the present day, and even now, 20 years later, losses are added to the toll. Between 2015 and 2020, four USMS personnel died from cancers directly related to their activities at the WTC site in New York City. The names of those four individuals – Vaughn Aiken, Kenneth Doyle, Betty Ann Pascarella, and Zacarias Toro – will be honored as long as we remember their courageous acts. Vaughn Aiken was a longtime USMS headquarters employee who transferred from New York to work in property management. Kenneth Doyle assisted with the movement of personnel around the WTC site. Judicial Security Officer Betty Ann Pascarella assisted search and rescue operations and directed traffic. Deputy U.S. Marshal Zacarias Toro, who at the time of the attack was a federal detention officer, provided security for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

While the risks at the WTC site were personal and unprecedented in American history, the challenge was a national one for the U.S. Marshals. The agency’s fleet of aircraft – normally used to transport detainees, but now some of the only aircraft not grounded after the attacks – transported personnel wherever they were needed. For 11 days, a USMS search team scoured the ruins of buildings in New York City for survivors, and then remains. Deputy U.S. Marshals assisted with searches and security at the Pentagon. At nearly the same time, the USMS secured key airports and federal facilities. All of these efforts were coordinated by USMS headquarters and field locations around the country.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and the following pictures replace many thousands of words with the personal and organizational memories of our agency’s actions at a particularly vulnerable time. The pictures highlight the moment they were captured, but they bring to mind those who participated in this unifying national effort, those who have been lost over the last 20 years, and the actions of all who were involved - both known and unknown.

Night Searching at Ground Zero Night Searching at Ground Zero. This photograph was taken by U.S. Marshal Martin Pane of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Workers carefully remove rubble to search for survivors and remains. In many cases, only clues to a person’s identity were found. One deputy recalled seeing only a broken phone and a discarded shoe on one large debris pile.
   
USMS personnel at the World Trade Center site
USMS Collections
USMS personnel at the World Trade Center site. Working at the WTC site was one of the most dangerous duties for USMS personnel. This recovery team is composed of personnel from technical operations and seasoned deputies from across the nation. The sheer size of the job required 11 days of meticulous searching with sophisticated equipment.
   
The well-worn gloves of Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Herrera
Courtesy of Robert Herrera, E/NY USMS
The well-worn gloves of Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Herrera. Deputy Robert Herrera saved the very gloves he wore while working through the rubble in New York City. Coated with dust and soot, Deputy Herrera’s soiled gloves are symbolic of the day. They will be featured in the first retrospective exhibit at the U.S. Marshals Museum at Fort Smith, Arkansas.
   
Inspector Michael Pyo with the first USMS canine “deputy,” Beacon
USMS Collections
Inspector Michael Pyo with the first USMS canine “deputy,” Beacon. The USMS had only recently launched its K-9 pilot program, when Inspector Pyo and his canine partner, Beacon, deployed to the damaged section of the Pentagon and several Washington area airports.
   
Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal “Tex” Lindsey from the Eastern District of North Carolina sifting through items seized at Dulles Airport
USMS Collections
Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal “Tex” Lindsey from the Eastern District of North Carolina sifting through items seized at Dulles Airport. In the hours and days following the 9/11 attacks, USMS personnel moved quickly to increase security at 17 of nation’s key airports. In the days before DHS and TSA, the presence of USMS personnel reassured the public and enabled commercial flights to resume. Sharp instruments, liquids, and other previously allowed items were banned from commercial aircraft, and USMS personnel confiscated many such objects.
   
Guarding the nation’s airports in a time of crisis
USMS Collections
Guarding the nation’s airports in a time of crisis. The aftermath of 9/11 was not the first time the U.S. Marshals had secured airports. A rash of hijackings in the late 1960s brought about the Air Piracy Program, which the USMS participated in from 1969 to 1973. Deputy marshals, dubbed “Sky Marshals,” worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to monitor departure gates and magnetometers. The program seized an impressive number of hidden weapons.

The U.S. government considered making the USMS permanently responsible for airport security, but the additional duties might have adversely impacted our primary mission of securing the judicial system. Ultimately, the Transportation Security Agency was formed within the Department of Homeland Security, and several former USMS managers joined their training team to initiate what became the TSA’s Federal Air Marshal Service.
   
“As terrible as the incident was, the heroes I saw throughout my service there [at the WTC site] still remain today. The support services, the waitress that gave you coffee, everybody did their part.”-Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Tom Morefield, Southern District of Georgia, Retired
   
Securing Government Facilities
USMS Collections
Securing Government Facilities. Deputy U.S. Marshal Cassie Rountree inspects building passes at a checkpoint at USMS Headquarters in October 2001. The USMS increased resources devoted to securing federal courts and members of the federal judiciary during an extended period of heightened security after the 9/11 attacks. Long after September 2001, the USMS ensured that federal courts could hold terrorist-related trials safely and without incident.
   
“I remember being assigned to the Warrant Squad in DC Superior Court and being called in to staff court that day. I stood in the very small Assistant Chief Deputy’s office watching the footage from the World Trade Center that a plane had hit the building. And then the second plane hit on live television and we watched in horror. We knew that our world had changed. Everyone began to evacuate the courthouse, and once that was complete, many of us went to the Pentagon as by that time American Flight 77 had hit the building. While helping victims fleeing the building, I received a call on my Nextel phone directing me to pack for a thirty-day assignment and report to USMS HQ in Crystal City. I remember trying to cut through the Pentagon reservation to get to HQ and there was a line of federal law enforcement cars that were being turned around by Pentagon Police. As I stepped out of the car to see what was happening, I heard the police officer [say], ‘I need you all to move, I need to get the Marshal through.’ [It] definitely reminded me of the versatility of the agency and the legacy left by those before me.”-Assistant Director for Tactical Operations Andrew Smith
   
JPATS Kept Flying
USMS Collections
JPATS Kept Flying. While nearly all of America’s air traffic was grounded, USMS aircraft provided essential services to fill the gap. Our fleet flew 18 missions that transported over 800 law enforcement personnel to duty locations around the country. Members of the USMS Special Operations Group (SOG) were among those passengers. This photo was taken before 9/11. It shows the size of one of the planes in our diverse fleet.
   
Class #108’s Graduating Journey
Courtesy of Jeremy Honaker, CDUSM, District of Virgin Islands
Class #108’s Graduating Journey. New deputies, led by Class President David Siler and Advisor Melanie Rube, were sent to New York to bolster security at area airports badly in need of personnel.
   
“Regardless of how you address our Deputy US Marshal class, we were, and remain, a close-knit group. Following the terror attacks of 9/11, Assistant Director Brian Beckwith informed our class we would be traveling to New York City to provide security at the airports. Our instructors, advisors and classmates showed true leadership qualities during this prolonged detail. I am truly appreciative of the guidance, direction and close friendships I received from having been a part of this historic class.”-Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Jeremy Honaker, District of the Virgin Islands
   
Meticulous Recordkeeping Meticulous Recordkeeping. Both at the USMS headquarters Emergency Operations Center and at airport details in the field, logbooks, like the one in the photo, were used to track USMS personnel, their actions, and any unusual incidents. The logbooks in the photo are from New York airport details with entries starting on September 17, 2001. Most entries mention unattended luggage or question suspicious behavior. Deputy marshals regularly began their daily duties at 4 a.m.
   
“The word came late that night that our assignments were JFK and LaGuardia Airport security. We divided into teams and headed for the airports. Charlie Moore and I had a team at LaGuardia. The first several days it seems that the airports were virtually empty. I remember a Port Authority officer patrolling our terminal daily with a rifle slung across his chest. He wept non-stop for those he lost. We returned to the hotel each night greeted by the smiling faces of the missing on every available wall and pole. These posters became the wallpaper of NYC. These faces came to haunt us in the days following, as we realized they wouldn’t return to their families.”-Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Melanie Rube, Northern District of Mississippi
   
A New York City Memorial
Courtesy of SDUSM Melanie Rube, N/MS
A New York City Memorial. As a means of mourning the enormous loss, spontaneous tributes sprang up on the blocks near the WTC site and beyond. Supervisory Deputy Melanie Rube photographed this memorial in the area.
   
Marshals Monitor
Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press
How We Remember. This iconic image, shown on the first page of our internal newsletter, shows Deputy U.S. Marshal Dominic Guadagnoli carrying a wounded civilian from the ruins of the World Trade Center. It symbolizes the willingness of our entire agency to help in a moment of crisis. Service is one of the three pillars of our agency. It was evident in the actions of our personnel 20 years ago and remains today.

   
A Child’s Letter of Appreciation
Courtesy SDUSM Melanie Rube, N/MS
A Child’s Letter of Appreciation. Perhaps no greater tribute has been paid to our agency than the supportive letters from our nation’s children. The USMS training staff received a number of messages from the Brunswick and St. Simon’s Island area schools similar to this heart-warming greeting from a student named Claire.
 
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