When I became the borough commander of Brooklyn South in May of 2000, I was excited to start the planning of my first Labor Day Parade. It was a huge event, with well over a million people attending and about 8,000 cops assigned throughout the day. I decided to hold a pre-event presentation for the community and the parade organizers. I thought it would be good to include all parties as much as possible to get them to "buy in" to the planning of the event.
We held the pre-event in a large hall within the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway. It was well attended with about 100 NYPD members along with a good number of community members and civic leaders. When the event ended, I was fully engaged and having nice exchanges with a number of attendees. At one point, just a few feet away, from what he thought was an appropriate and respectful distance, stood Sergeant Timmy Roy, waiting to say hello to me. Timmy had been one of my sergeants in the 71 Precinct during my three years as commanding officer there. I hadn't seen him since I left in 1997.
Every now and then, between the quick exchanges with people I'd stop and say, "So Timmy, how are you…", only to stop and say hello to someone else. A couple of times I'd say, "Timmy, don't leave …" as I said a quick hello to another, and then another. After I finished all my quick exchanges, I was disappointed that Timmy was gone.
On September 11th, at about 6:30 pm it was confirmed that my nephew, FF Michael Roberts, was there. I went to the site at about 10:00 pm. A lieutenant who was walking me through the site said to me, in a matter of fact tone, "Oh Chief, there's someone else you know who is here - Timmy Roy." My mind raced back to that moment, when I said to Timmy - a number of times, "Don't leave Timmy" and continued with my bunch of quick, less than meaningful exchanges.
I think of Timmy and those two nights often. I've now adopted what I call the "Timmy Roy Formula." When at events where I'm fully engaged with a number of people, I concentrate fully on the person I'm speaking with, trying not to be distracted by potential exchanges with others who may be near. I'd much rather have a smaller number of meaningful encounters with a few, than a bunch of quick hellos with many.
My "Timmy Roy Formula" is one of many gifts that came into my life, through some considerable pain. Bless Timmy, my nephew Michael, and bless all of our heroes.