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A “Blue Family” affected by the September 11th attacks
By Otillio and Joyce Velazquez, The parents of Officer Val Velazquez-Stetz (Ret.), Dr. Elisa Velazquez, DMD, MSD and Christy Rosa

What started out as a glorious Tuesday morning in September ended in a night of sleepless fear and terror. I was preparing to go to work, getting dressed and putting coffee on, and as usual, the 

kitchen TV was on Channel 5 news. Otillio had already left for work and the doorbell rang it was my daughter Val (Nina) in full uniform. She stopped in for a quick hug and kiss since she just came back from Disneyworld with her son, Johnny. My neighborhood was her district, the North Precinct.

Seeing her in uniform never ceased to make my heart skip a beat, both out of pride and fear, but her smile always reassured me. In a matter of a minute the news report was interrupted with breaking news. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and we both stood in shock watching. Then the unthinkable happened, another plane hit the second tower. At the same time her radio started blaring, she looked at me and said, “The World Trade Center is under attack.” All police and first responders were being called into action and downtown Jersey City was being blocked off. Our Johnny, her baby at the time, was at preschool in downtown JC. Val screamed “I am going to get him mom, do not go to work. I will bring him here to you!” I waited for what seemed like an eternity until she came back with Johnny in her police car. She ran in with him in her arms, and he was smiling and saying, ‘Mama I was in the police car.” She had tears in her eyes and handed over her heart to me. We hugged and kissed, and she said, “I don’t know when I will be back. Keep him with you, I love you both,” and as she rushed away, I prayed to God to stay with her.

Everything was fuzzy in my head after that because I was trying to act normal around my grandson while watching the horrific images on TV. Honestly, I don’t know if it was one or two days until she came home to crawl into bed with us and cuddle her son. Day after day for the next few weeks she would come back with such pain and sadness in her eyes. All I could do was hold her and tell her it was going to be alright. All I can say is each time she left my house I called on God and his angels to please protect her and all the first responders. Thankfully he did.

Val’s sister, Dr. Elisa Velazquez, DMD, MSD
My commute to my Toms River office usually consisted of loud music. I arrived in my parking spot but sat in the car to finish listening to a song. The NY radio station then announced a plane crashed into one of the twin towers. They speculated it was a small commuter plane. I went upstairs to my office to get ready for my first patient. This didn’t sit well with me, so I turned on the TV. The news announced that the second tower was also hit. Our dreaded fears were coming true. A terrorist attack was happening on our own soil in our beloved NYC. Then my heart went to my family across the river in Jersey City. Where were they? Was it over? Was Jersey City the next target? Would JCPD be called in needing my sister? My mom? My dad? My little nephew Johnny? Later, I found out my family was safe, but American citizens were murdered by terrorists. I did know my sister and our JCPD/JCFD were assisting NYPD with the recovery process and closures of tunnels and streets. I canceled all my patients, so everyone could go home to be with their loved ones, but I couldn’t travel to JC to be with mine. I went to my sister’s home in Middlesex County to take care of her dog, Simba. I then stayed in my home in Monmouth County. I was proud that my sister along with all the other first responders who were out there. But I was terrified that this happened. I prayed that night, I prayed for my family, first responders, my city, my country and for humanity.

Val’s best friend, Christy Rosa
I remember driving to work and listening to the radio and the DJ reporting that a plane hit one of the towers. I walked into the office in shock and by the time I sat down, 

I was told the other tower was also hit. I called my son’s school and they told me they wouldn’t release any of the children. I remember thinking about my family who worked in NYC and my best friend Val, who worked at the JCPD. The news soon announced that JCPD was helping the wounded and everyone was being brought over to Jersey City. I couldn’t reach Val and I feared we were still under attack and the worst was yet to come. I was proud of my best friend and scared she would be hurt, but Val was always fearless since the age of 13. She was in the middle of chaos, and somehow she was able to help many people. I’m thankful for all the brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way and pray to this day for all the fallen first responders.