Not Every Hero Wears a Cape

Tommy Merriweather who passed away on January 21, 2013 from 9/11-related pancreatic cancer was more than an NYPD detective, Army vet and Scoutmaster, he was a husband, a father and a hero. So much a hero that a street was named after him in June of 2015.

In an NBC New York article, Greg Cergol reported how the crowd which included Merriweather’s wife, two sons, family, friends and town officials watched as the sign reading "Det. 1st Grade Tommy Merriweather Drive" was uncovered.

Not every hero wears a cape,

Seeing his name on that sign is going to remind people that everyday people, just doing their jobs, are heroes.
— Angie Carpenter, Islip town supervisor

But Tommy Merriweather performed more than just an everyday job; he was an NYPD detective on September 11, 2001. Merriweather would spend the 8 months following the 9/11 attacks combing through the rubble of the Twin Towers at the Staten Island landfill, reported John Asbury in a January 20th Newsday article.

Merriweather’s widow Jackie said Tommy worked sifting through the pile of ground zero debris looking for human remains in an effort to help families who had not yet been able to bury their loved ones. She said, “It was to give some type of closure to the other families,” 

Tommy was given a paper mask and suit as he performed the task of sorting through the toxic debris from the World Trade Center. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011. Different cancers have different latency periods. The time between initial exposure and the diagnosable onset of the resulting cancer is known as the ‘latency period’. Pancreatic tumors can take up to 18 years to develop. Merriweather’s cancer was diagnosed 10 years following 9/11 and he was dead within 2 years of his diagnosis. His cancer was ruled a 9/11-related illness. 

Before becoming an NYPD detective in 1989, Tommy spent 8 years in the Army and several more in the Army Reserves and New York National Guard. He was a part of NYPD for 20 years before he retired in 2009 after which he was a private investigator.

On January 21, 2018, NYPD and Long Island officials held a ceremony with Tommy’s family at the First Baptist Church to honor his life and the work he did after 9/11, in the military and undercover. Tommy Merriweather is survived by his wife and two sons.