Remember their names: The 9/11 LGBT heroes
While some of them are well-remembered, others are still unnamed. A gay New York City firefighter, Tom Ryan, admitted that about 25 closeted gay firefighters died that day.
NYPD member Edgar Rodriguez also said: “As the days went by, we learned that some of the missing rescue personnel were gay, and that many of their lovers, some of whom are cops and firefighters, were grieving in silence for fear of being outed.”
Here are a handful of the queer heroes of 9/11.
9/11 LGBT heroes: Bingham and Judge
Mark Bingham, 31, was a rugby enthusiast who was part of the group of passengers who fought the hijackers on United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.
Afterward, Senator John McCain delivered the eulogy at Bingham’s funeral: “I may very well owe my life to Mark and the others who summoned the enormous courage and love necessary to deny those depraved, hateful men their terrible triumph. Such a debt you incur for life.”
Meanwhile, New York City Fire Department Chaplain Mychal Judge, 68, had been killed while administering last rites to a firefighter when the World Trade Center towers fell.
During the tragedy, Judge was heard to have said on seeing the fall of the jumpers from the burning towers: “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”
9/11 LGBT heroes: McAneney and Mercer
Though Bingham and Judge were the most known among those who were out, there were others in the LGBT community who did their part as well.
Patricia McAneney, 50, was the fire marshal for the floor in One World Trade Center where she was working at the time.
Citing her honesty, Margaret Cruz, McAneney’s partner of nearly 20 years, said to the New York Times, “If one of us committed a crime, Pat would be the last person we could go to because she would turn you in. She said she might give me a few hours’ head start.”
Wesley Mercer, 70, vice president for corporate security for Morgan Stanley, helped evacuate the other employees during the crisis.
Mercer’s partner, Bill Randolph, told the New York Times that “It put a hole in my stomach. But I knew that’s what he would have done.”
The LGBT community’s 9/11 stories
Of course, there were heroes of the LGBT community who survived that day, like Spike Cutolo, Grace Telesco, Andrew Lavenski, Carol Paukner, Ann Cregan, and Thomas Verni.
However the treatment of the LGBT community– heroes, victims, survivors– in the aftermath of the attack left a lot to be desired.
As Francis S. Coppola, a New York City detective said, “I have never been more proud of being an American or a New Yorker, but at the same time it has made me sad. The greatest country in the world, and yet we are treated like second-class citizens.”
Coppola’s partner, a firefighter named Eddie, died during the attacks. Coppola said: “The great love of my life died doing what he did best and what he loved to do: helping others. I have never been an activist or ever wanted to be one; however, it is time we stand up and be counted and demand equality– nothing more or nothing less.”
Judy Wieder, editor-in-chief of Advocate, put it more succinctly: “When you ask what difference does it make if the heroes were gay, I say I agree with you. That’s precisely our point. They were just like everybody else.”
“So we ask, why is it that when they died, they were equal to everyone, but had they lived, they would not have the same equality as heterosexuals?” Wieder said.