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
Police Heroes, a book by author
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
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,
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
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.