PO John Perry

PO John Perry

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John W. Perry was not your typical police officer. He spoke French, Spanish, Swedish and Russian, and was learning Albanian. He was a graduate of New York University School of Law. He ran in three marathons and took part in a swim around Manhattan. He was an extra in Woody Allen films. He volunteered one day a week for the Kings County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He was in the New York State Guard and was a board member in the New York Civil Liberties Union. He collected bulletproof vests from retired police officers and gave them to officers in Moscow. 

On the morning of Sept. 11, Mr. Perry was filing his retirement papers at 1 Police Plaza, intent on becoming a medical malpractice lawyer.

When he learned of the attacks, he ran the few blocks to the World Trade Center. Colleagues said he disappeared in the rubble when the south tower collapsed, just moments after he tried to help a woman who had fainted.

“I always wondered why John did so much,” said his mother, Patricia Perry. “As a child he was classified as having a learning disability, but he rose above it. He always felt he had something to prove.” 

​- The New York Times 10/30/2001

John Perry knew he had only one life to live, and so he immersed himself in many. 

He was a New York City police officer, a lawyer, an actor, a linguist, an active libertarian, a social worker helping abused children, a philosopher searching for his religion, and a softhearted soul who opened his wallet and his home to near strangers. 

“He was the kind of person who enjoyed life,” said his mother, Patricia Perry of Seaford. “He was a libertarian who thought some rules weren’t necessary. Whatever he believed in, he followed.” 

Perry, 38, was last seen helping a woman out of a trade center tower when it collapsed on Sept. 11. His original mission that morning had been to turn in his badge, file his retirement papers and embark on a new career. Instead, he retrieved the badge and rushed off with fellow officers to help evacuate people from the towers. 

“Apparently John was too slow carrying this woman,” said Arnold Wachtel, Perry’s close friend. “But knowing John, he would never leave that lady unattended. That was just like him to help people.” 

Perry’s generosity was boundless. His two-bedroom apartment in a public housing complex near Lincoln Center was known as a free bed and breakfast. Vladimir Azbel, a longtime friend, said he once called Perry because he had $1,700 in parking tickets. “He said, ‘Yeah, don’t worry. Just don’t get anymore tickets,'” Azbel said. “Later on I found out that he just paid them.” 

Perry was diagnosed with a learning disability in the first grade and only learned to tie his shoes and read by the age of 9. But he overcame those difficulties. His love affair with learning foreign languages was sparked in the eighth grade when he began studying French. 

He was outgoing, unafraid to approach a native speaker and attempt to speak the language, said his mother. The list of languages he spoke included Spanish, Swedish, Russian and Portuguese. 

Perry studied law at New York University Law School, practiced immigration law with a friend after graduating and then went to the police academy. Eventually, he took a position investigating and disciplining police officers’ minor infractions. 

In his spare time, Perry took parts as an extra in movies and TV shows such as “NYPD Blue.” He volunteered as an investigator for the Kings County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He also was a board member of the Nassau Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. 

“At board meetings … he sort of out libertarianed us,” executive director Barbara Bernstein said. “If someone thought it wasn’t the right timing or [a case] wasn’t winnable, he was an idealist. He made us justify what we were doing.” 

Perry also had explored many religions, attending various services and reading about each extensively. He was converting to Judaism and often attended the Actors Temple in midtown Manhattan, where Rabbi Noach Valley talked about Perry for his Rosh Hashanah sermon days after the tragedy. “He was never bored, because his life was brim-full of holy service to others,” Noach told his congregations. “Here was a onetime atheist living a life of kedushah, of closeness to God.” 

– New York Newsday Victim Database 2/7/2002

Police Officer John W. Perry, 38, was appointed to the NYPD on August 30, 1993, and began his career on patrol in the Central Park Precinct. Prior to being assigned to the 40 Precinct in April 2001, he worked in Manhattan Traffic Task Force and the Department Advocate’s Office. He was a first lieutenant in the New York State Guard, as well as a part-time actor who appeared in several films including “The Devil’s Advocate” and “Die Hard III”. PO Perry , who spoke five languages in addition to English, received a bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University and a Juris Doctorate from New York University Law School. His hobbies were swimming and running. Besides taking part in a swim around Manhattan, he had completed three marathons and participated in the Central Park Midnight Run every New Year’s Eve. He was also active in numerous police fraternal organizations, including the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, the International Police Association, and the Metro North PBA. He had recently traveled to the former USSR where he delivered many used bullet-resistant vests to be utilized by local authorities. PO Perry is survived by his parents Patricia and Dr. James Perry; sister Janice; brother Joel; and nephew Jimmy.
– SPRING 3100, Commemorative Issue


Police Officer John Perry, New York City Police Department, New YorkOfficer Down Memorial Page, Inc.
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