A 9/11 hero has committed suicide after a long battle with lung disease- an illness traced to his time at Ground Zero.
Retired NYPD Captain Douglas Greenwood shot himself in the chest at a Suffolk County park on Tuesday night, a heartbreaking act that -to his closest friends and family- seemed inevitable as his lung condition became too painful to bear.
“He talked about shooting himself as an inevitable thing,” said long-time friend, NYC photographer Kevin McCormick. “He said ‘when there’s no more quality of life, I’m going to do it.’ He knew it was coming.”
Given the pain and suffering he endured as a result of his time at “the pile” (a moniker for the rubble at Ground Zero), it would not be at all unreasonable to understand why he did it or think ill of his decision.
The 61-year-old retired lawman -who spent a harrowing forty days working on “the pile”- was also the co-owner of the beloved Greenwich Village-area Bleecker Street Pizza, an endeavour he took on after retiring on 9/11 disability over fourteen years ago.
“As true to my Italian grandmother’s recipe as possible,” Greenwood once said of one of his pizzas.
During his time at Ground Zero, Greenwood was in charge of Manhattan’s South Task Force.
“He was in charge of all the NYPD boots on the ground,” recalled retired detective Ralph Friedman.“He’d be commanding the scene, but he also did grunt work. Everybody pitched in. Everyone was sifting through the scene for bodies and body parts. He could have stayed in a car, but he was right there- and it cost him his health, as it did for a lot of officers.”
At the time, nobody at the site wore respirators, often due to the constant use of radios and difficulty communicating over the noise.
Friedman recalled how Greenwood slept with an oxygen tank for the past decade, struggling to perform a basic bodily task so many take for granted.
With that in mind, nobody seems to harbor hard feelings towards the Captain for what he did.
“It was constant, increasing pain. It hurt to breathe,” Friedman said. “He would never do something like this unless he had no choice. And he had no choice.”
Be it his police work or pizza, Greenwood was a beloved and well-known fixture in New York City- one that the Big Apple can never replace.
According to the New York Post, Greenwood served 26 years in the NYPD.
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