For a long time after the Sept. 11 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, retired Port Authority Police Officer John “Jack” Reinke – the father of Secaucus Police Office Michael Reinke – could not stop talking about David P. Lemagne, one of the many Port Authority police officers who perished in the attack.
For Reinke, Lemagne was someone special, a person you ran across once in a lifetime and remembered forever.
Reinke, who had retired before the attack, had served in nearly aspect of the Port Authority operations, ending his career doing duty at the shipyards in Port Newark. He had met or worked with hundreds of people, yet few stuck in his mind as thoroughly as Lemagne.
“He was a real hero,” Reinke said during the Sept. 11 memorial services last year. “Losing him was a real tragedy.”
Lemagne, 27, of North Bergen, was among 37 P.A. police officer to perish with the collapse of the Twin Towers. Stationed in Journal Square at the time of the attack, Lemagne rushed to New York to help in recovery efforts.
Reinke recalled Lemagne as something of a mythological figure in the P.A., someone who was “special and gifted.”
On Feb. 21, 2004, The David P. Lemagne Memorial Foundation will hold its second annual benefit dinner dance at the La Reggia Restaurant on Wood Avenue in Secaucus, which will raise money for a continuing scholarship in his name.
Lemagne loved helping people
A native of Weehawken originally, Lemagne attended Catholic schools in Union City and later Jersey City before attending Kean University in Newark. Friends and relatives say they can’t remember a time when he didn’t want to help people, even in childhood. As a youth, he joined the Union City Emergency Medical Explorers, in which he got to work side by side with police officers and firefighters.
“In 1990, while in his sophomore year of high school, David received his EMT certification from Bergen County EMS Training academy and quickly entered into service with the Union City Volunteer Ambulance Corp,” said Magaly Lemagne Alfano, his older sister.
There he learned the ropes to a tough profession. Once out of high school, he wasted no time in becoming a professional, working for the Jersey City Medical Center and the University Hospital in Newark as a paramedic.
Throughout his career, Lemagne never forgot the impact disasters had on ordinary people. While a volunteer in Union City, he helped fight a fire, then went home and gathered up food and clothing to bring back to the victims. His sister called him “a sensitive, understanding and supportive man” who constantly helped people.
“He had a grin on his face all the time like he was born with it,” said a quote from the Port Authority’s official tribute to Lemagne. “It was as if he was grinning at himself. He was fast with a joke and even faster at motivating all those around him, and he kept everyone’s spirits high, regardless of the seriousness of the situation at hand. He moved swiftly and at times seemed to float from one place to another.”
Virginia Ferreira, an ex-girlfriend, called Lemagne her “guardian angel.”
Lemagne’s sister said he was last seen on the concourse level of the North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. He came out of the smoke and rubble to rescue a P.A. police sergeant and helped pass the sergeant along the human chain.
“The sergeant thought he had died because he saw this light coming towards him, but it was David with a flashlight,” Alfano said. “Once they had gotten him out, the sergeant turned to say thank you to David and he saw [Lemagne] running back into the building.”
That was the last time anyone saw him.
Fundraising dinner set
In his name, friends and family set up the David P. Lemagne Memorial Foundation, hosting a fundraising event each year. The money from this will be divided up in the form of scholarships to further the careers of aspiring nurses and paramedics who hope to follow the same path Lemagne did.
“David left this world committed and truth to his mission and vocation,” Alfano said. “And we know he lived out that vocation through the last moments of his life. David, as strong and kingly as his name implies, took charge and led others to safety.”
The dinner will be held on Feb. 21 from 6:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. The $100 per person donation includes cocktail hour, sit-down dinner, five-hour open bar, raffle and prizes. For more information call (201) 867-7989 or (201) 780-3185.