When it was new, this dog tag I wear, it was blue with white lettering. It came in the mail one day, an unexpected and treasured gift. It wasn’t my name on the dog tag but it would be mine to wear and wear it I did, and do still.
Like most Americans I was shocked, horrified, and angered at the cowardly attack on civilians on September 11, 2001. A large number of young men and women enlisted in the nation’s armed forces as a result of the attack on their country and took the fight to the enemy on his own soil. There were also those who had previously served in the military who either re-entered or attempted to re-enter the military. I even filled out the forms online to be considered but my age, 50 at the time, and two bad knees, served as reminders that, while the Marines were still “looking for a few good men,” my time had come and gone.
Wanting to do something, I decided to write an article honoring those Marine veterans, serving as police officers or firefighters, who had rushed into the danger everyone was running from and into the inferno of the Twin Towers and had perished on that day. I don’t recall where I obtained the names but I did and named every one of these selfless heroes in the article. It seemed so little a thing to do but it was important that I do it. I might not be able to properly honor the 3,000 who were murdered but I could name these few good men.
The article was published in The Citizen newspaper in my home area and was later picked up and published as a letter to the editor in Leatherneck magazine. It was named the “Letter of the Month,” by the magazine’s editors. I didn’t know any of those I named but they were Marines and, as all Marines will understand, it was enough to cement the bond and loss I felt.
A few weeks later, I received a small package in the mail. I opened it and found the blue and white dog tag. The inscription on the dog tag read:
THOMAS LANGONE NYPD
FALLEN IN THE LINE OF DUTY
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
Thomas Langone was one of the Marines I had named in the article. Somehow the article had found its way into the hands of Officer Langone’s wife and family. The enclosed letter was from her. The dog tag was a gift for writing the article. Within a few days, I was wearing the dog tag.
Having served honorably as a U.S. Marine, Langone continued his life of service and became an NYPD officer where he served for 18 years. He was enrolled at Empire State University, working on a bachelor’s degree with plans to teach after retirement.
Thomas Langone was 39 when he went into the towers. He and his wife, Joann, were the parents of two children, Caitlin, age 12, and Brian, age 10. If my research on social media is accurate, Caitlin was married in 2019 and has earned B.A. and M.S. degrees. She lives in New Jersey. Brian appears to live in California. Mrs. Langone continues to live in New York. Everyone is nearly 20 years older now. But some things you never get over. One may get through them, as most of the 9/11 families have done, but never “over” them.
I continue to wear the dog tag honoring Thomas Langone and, by extension, all the victims and families of America’s tragedy. It’s pretty scuffed up now for the wear of 19 years and some of the blue has faded and worn away but I think it gives the memento character. It’s rare that I take it off for more than just a few minutes.
Thomas Langone had a brother, Peter, age 41, who was a firefighter for the NYFD. Peter and his wife, Terri, were the parents of two daughters, Nikki, 9, and Karli, 5. Thomas and Peter arrived separately at the towers on September 11. Together they served on that terrible day. Together they died.
Thomas Langone was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during the Annual Medal Day ceremony on December 4, 2001. The New York City Police Department Medal of Honor is the highest award that may be bestowed upon a member of the service.
On September 9, 2005, all of the public safety officers killed on 9/11 were posthumously awarded the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor by President Georgia W. Bush.
On May 1, 2011, under orders of President Barack Obama, members of the U. S. military hunted down Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the attacks, and killed him in a compound at Abbottabad, Pakistan.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the crisis, the church is live streaming at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays at http://www.facebook.com/cctksharpsburg/ He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]