Back to photographs of those who fell on September 11, 2001

Police Chief James Romito
Assignment on September 11, 2001:
PAPD Headquarters, Jersey City, NJ

James RomitoFrom Police Heroes, a book by author Chuck Whitlock:

On September 11th, Chief Romito went up to the twenty-seventh floor of the North Tower and was supervising rescue workers who were trying to find survivors. He sent some officers outside for first-aid supplies. As the floors above them began to cave in, he ordered personnel to retreat. A colleague said that Chief Romito turned back from a clear stairwell to go back for a group of firefighters. He was found burned under the rubble with colleagues Officers James Parham and Stephen Huczko, Lieutenant Robert Cirri, and Captain Kathy Mazza, along with a woman they tried to rescue.

Romito was born in the Bronx. The son of a corrections officer, he graduated from Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, in 1978. He received an M.A.E. in 1998 from Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey and taught in the school’s master’s degree law enforcement program.

Chief Romito, fifty-one, was most recently the commander of the Port Authority headquarters support team and oversaw emergency operations. Prior to this command, he was chief of the Field Aviation Section for two years and was responsible for the Port Authority police operations at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports. An inspector at the time of the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, he helped federal and local authorities coordinate information. He received a commendation for valor for his work in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Earlier in the 1990’s, when he was assigned to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, he started “Operation Alternative.” Now considered a national model, the program offered safe housing, medical care and social services to the homeless who made their home at the terminal. Operation Alternative resulted in a dramatic drop in crime. It’s been praised by both law enforcement and advocacy groups for the homeless.

Chief Romito was in charge of a Port Authority Bus Terminal community policing plan. He was also a member of various associations, including the International Association of Ports and Harbors, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the American Association of Airport Executives.

Romito lost his son, Robert, in a car accident in early 2001. He is survived by his daughter, Ellen.

Portraits of Grief, The New York Times

Water and the Woods

On his 50th birthday in 2000, James A. Romito and his companion, Mary Pat Brew Sturdy, had just opened a bottle of wine when his beeper went off: an attempted hijacking at Kennedy Airport. Mr. Romito, a chief of the Port Authority Police Department, answered the call, returning home only at 7 the next morning.

It was typical of the way his sense of duty and public service had structured his life, Ms. Sturdy said. “He would be in the midst of everything,” she said. In 30 years with the Port Authority, he had handled crises, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and quieter challenges, like how to humanely deal with the homeless at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Outside of work, he wanted to be just a regular person. He had Mary Pat and her son, Bobby; he had his daughter, Ellen. Ms. Sturdy said most of the people at their favorite bar, Poor Henry’s didn’t know he was in law enforcement.

He loved the water and the woods. There were times when the beeper would go off, and it would be something he could handle from home. The screened-in back porch would become a command center, and there he and Mary Pat would sit-dealing with the crisis and looking at the woods.