a u d i o d o c s
Yes, today is not September 11th. It’s only Friday, January 7, 2011. I just decided to write a memorial for a police officer who died on the line of duty saving lives like countless others did on September 11, 2001 through Project 2,996, where each blogger, simply put, writes “a tribute to the victims of 9/11.” While most, if not all, bloggers posted either on the day of or close to that day in September, I believe you could pay a tribute on any given day of the year. While there are still many names left that does not have tributes, I believe life is a celebration. I am celebrating his life. This year, 2011, would mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Born on the 2nd of December 1944, Nathaniel Webb, who also went by Nat and Nathan, was described as “generous and righteous” who was “just a decent man doing a thankless job.” As a young boy growing up, according to his cousin, Dolores Matthews, he “always got teary eyed and told the truth” when his cousins wouldn’t admit to lying. As a man, he served with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department for over 25 years. During his time, Webb received the Meritorious Active Duty Award and a Police Group Citation.
Many have known him to be “one of the good ones.” One night he drove to Brooklyn, from his home in Jersey City, to be with Officer Sharon Feoktistov, who worked with Webb since 1985, to sit with her while waiting for the truck to tow her flat tired car away. Feoktistov said, “And the thing was, I didn’t even have to ask.” They worked with each other at the Holland Tunnel, a highway tunnel under the Hudson River connection the island of Manhattan in New York with Jersey City, New Jersey at interstate 78 on the mainland. According to the officer, he was last seen at 8:30 a.m., that day, at roll call.
Heather, a teller at the Xcel Federal Credit Union, was friends with many of the Port Authority Police especially Webb, to whom they spoke of family and children regularly. She even liked the name Nathaniel so much that when she gave birth to a baby boy, she couldn’t wait to tell the officer what she named him. He was alive to not only have known of this, but also was shown a picture of the baby. She says, “With you gone now, I feel like I have a small part of you every time I call my son’s name.”
According to Cheryl Cooper-Foreman, her companion, Donald, had called home and told her that he was in the World Trade Center with officer Webb and McNeil. Nathaniel Webb, along with the officers and firefighters, sacrificed his life for a cause that he believed in. He perished, at the age of 56, along with 70 NYPD and NJPD officers, 343 members of the FDNY and over 2800 civilians by the hands of 19 terrorists on September 11, 2001. His body was never recovered or identified as of January 2011.
At the time of his death, he was survived by two orphaned daughters, Camille and Valerie, as well as his home bound mother whom he visited several times a week. The daughters’ mother, Patti Pettaway, died of a heart attack in 2000. On the sixth month anniversary, March 11, 2002, Valerie switched on the Tribute In Light, making up two beams of lights (about 44 lights each) to honor to those fallen and to keep the hopes and spirits alive. On September 9, 2005, George W. Bush posthumously awarded the 9/11 Medal of Valor to all of the public safety officers killed on that day we’ll never forget.
I never knew him. I’m sure our paths never crossed even when I visited New York with my best friend, for a couple of days, just a few of months before that horrific day. We lived separate lives: I lived in the Windy City, while Nathaniel lived in Chilltown, the nickname of Jersey City. Up until now, he was a complete stranger to me. I do not know if he really was the kind of man that everyone said he was, but I don’t care to know if he wasn’t. Everyone has flaws. Everyone is capable of making mistakes. Everyone has a chance to redeem him or herself. All I want is for people to know who he was so they too will no longer think of him as a stranger.