Det Claude Richards
Claude Daniel Richards, 46, was a member of the NYPD’s bomb squad. Richards, known as “Dan,” grew up in Bethpage and had lived for many years in Manhattan and in Bethpage. He died searching for survivors when the north tower fell.
Richards, a former U.S. Army airborne ranger and a member of the presidential honor guard during the Carter administration, was single. His work was his life, said his brother, Jim, who lives in Hempstead Town.
“I think he would have liked to have had more of a family life, but he found his family with the bomb squad,” he said.
He worked long hours, even on his days off, and was known for his meticulousness. He was a member of the United Nations international police task force in 1996 that served in Bosnia to disarm land mines, his brother said. To his family, he was Dan.
“Even in the bomb squad, they would give it to Dan because they knew it would be done right,” he said.
But Richards, one of seven children, would make time for family. Three weeks before Sept. 11, an older brother, Bill, a Vietnam veteran who had lost both legs, died. On his days off, Richards lived in Bethpage with his brother Bill to help him out.
“One word to describe Dan is honor,” his brother Jim said. “Dan honored his family, profession and country with many unselfish acts.”
Losing both brothers was “devastating,” he said. “It made us appreciate one another more.” – Ridgely Ochs
This profile was originally published in 2001/2002
Working on the New York City Police Department’s Bomb Squad can be nerve-racking, to say the least. But there was something about Det. Claude Richards, known to his friends as Dan, that made his colleagues feel safe.
“It’s a great comfort to be working with someone you can trust,” said Det. Daniel McNally, a friend and colleague of Richards’ since their first day of police academy in 1983. “Danny was the kind of guy that you’d want to introduce your loved ones to, to reassure them.”
Richards, 46, was with McNally, searching for survivors in the World Trade Center’s Building Six, when Tower One collapsed, killing him and two other officers, and injuring McNally. The other officers killed were Officer John Dallara and Sgt. Michael Curtin, both of Emergency Services. Richards’ remains have not been recovered.
“It would sound very cliche to say he died as he lived, helping people,” said McNally. “The guy was a New York City detective who was on the bomb squad for 15 years. He had placed his life in harm’s way many, many times. This is just another time that tempted fate.”
Richards, who was unmarried and had no children, was utterly devoted to his job, said his older brother Jim Richards, 47, who lives in the Town of Hempstead.
“He put one hundred percent into it, to the point where it took over any personal life that he might have had,” he said. “I think this is what he wanted to do. I don’t think he was ever sorry about not having a family.”
Richards grew up in Bethpage, the sixth of seven children. His older brother Bill, a Vietnam War veteran who had lost both his legs, died just three weeks before the World Trade Center attack.
Richards himself also served in the Army, enlisting at 22 and serving as an Army Airborne Ranger and as a member of the elite “Presidential Honor Guard” in Washington. After he left the Army, he earned a bachelor’s degree at New York University and joined the police department in 1983.
His sister, Debbie Popadiuk, 44, of Tennessee, remembers Richards as a kind and protective older brother.
“He was just so good to me,” she said, adding, “He just wanted to help people.”
For example, she said, “If he saw someone who needed a coat, or shoes or something, he would just give it to them. That’s the way he was.”
In 1996, Richards spent a year helping people thousands of miles away – on an assignment few would volunteer for. He was part of a United Nations international police force in Bosnia, where he disarmed land mines and other bombs.
While abroad, he indulged his love of travel, using his time off to visit countries across Europe. A martial arts enthusiast, Richards practiced religiously to hone his skills.
Eventually, it was his quiet integrity that earned him the trust and admiration of his fellow bomb squad members.
“Dan Richards was the kind of man who knew the difference between right and wrong, and he knew the difference between difficult and easy, but he would never let something difficult stand between him and doing something right,” said McNally. “He was a man who was comfortable in his own skin.” — Indrani Sen
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