Remembering 9/11 through the eyes of Dean Briano

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Note from the author: Sept. 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda carried out a series of four terrorist attacks against the United States, killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring thousands more, making it the deadliest one-day attack on American soil. Militants flew two of the four hijacked planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, with both 110-story buildings collapsing within an hour and 42 minutes. Though 18 years have passed since that fateful day, we must never forget these acts of terror and the lives lost as a result. Of the 2,977 who died, 412 were first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice. To pay tribute this year, the Patriot Post wanted to tell the 9/11 story of Mr. John Briano, who experienced the aftermath firsthand as a New York native and detective on the NYPD.

While Dean John Briano has lived in South Florida since 2008, his true identity lies with New York City, where he was born and raised in Staten Island. He worked in the New York Police Department (NYPD) for 21 years, ending as a detective in a Brooklyn precinct. As a result of this long period of time on the force, Dean Briano experienced the aftermath of 9/11 firsthand.

“Fortunately for me, I was home on Staten Island because my wife was going through breast cancer treatment at the time,” Dean Briano said. Had he not been home, he would have been one of the first responders, as the shift he worked extended from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m. “My wife didn’t work in the World Trade Center, but she did work on Broad Street, which bordered the World Trade Center, and got destroyed. In a way, her being sick saved my life and her life.”

“My house overlooked the skyline,” he said. “When the first plane hit, my whole house shook. Things fell off the walls and fell and broke. We turned the TV on, and I don’t know how I realized, but I knew right away that it was not an accident. A 747 doesn’t accidentally fly into a skyscraper.”

Dean Briano carries his niece after graduating from the New York City police academy. (Photo submitted by Dean Briano)

“The first thing I thought of was my two girls, who were half a mile away at the Jewish Community Center,” Dean Briano said. “Don’t ask why, but instead of getting in my car, I ran. I picked them up and got them out of there right away.” A week prior, there had been a gun attack at a JCC in Los Angeles.

Dean Briano was on the scene of Ground Zero the day after the dust settled. “I got lucky in a sense because I wasn’t there. My unit was in downtown Brooklyn, and they drove over on the actual day that it happened,” he said. “Thousands of people have died afterward from cancer from being on the site. Fortunately for me, I was only at the site for a few days.”

“I’ve never seen anything like [9/11] and hopefully never will see anything like that again,” Dean Briano said. “Those buildings coming down destroyed all the buildings near it. The rubble itself was nearly 20 stories high. It was just absolutely devastating. There are really no words to describe it. You knew it right away, at least from my experience, that almost nobody in those buildings was coming out alive.”

Trained in forensic science, he was assigned to the New York City armory, which was used as a staging area for those who couldn’t get in touch with their loved ones. “We would take forensic samples from them, categorize them and that is how later on, after sifting through the pile [of the collapsed towers] and finding fragments of humans, we compared them to the DNA we collected and identified over 2,000 of those who died.”

A National Guard member at Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue Armory passes a wall covered with missing person posters after the 9/11 attacks in New York City. (Photo/Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Pettibone)

Though the effects of this day were felt throughout the nation, New Yorkers felt the attack on the Twin Towers the most. “I said to my wife when it happened, ‘They destroyed my city,’” Dean Briano said. “Even going back now to the Freedom Tower, it looks beautiful, but it’s not my city; it’s not what I remember from when I looked out my back door and saw the towers.”

“What really sticks in my mind is going to probably 300 funerals afterward,” Dean Briano said. “Staten Island was the borough that lost the most people, and just every day there was a funeral. Personally, I had two friends die in it.” One of his friends was Stephen Siller, a firefighter who had five kids and was in the process of redoing his house. Dean Briano owned a small construction company at the time and completed all of the work for Stephen’s family for free.

Dean Briano (second to right) shows off his certificate of promotion to Detective, surrounded by his wife, daughter, mother and Commissioner Safir. (Photo submitted by Dean Briano)

“9/11 was not something that joined us [New Yorkers] together; we were together long before then,” Dean Briano said. “Unfortunately it happened to New York, but also fortunately it happened to New York because though we may not always show it all the time, we care for each other.”

“Some people in this country feel like [9/11] didn’t happen to them, it happened to New York,” Dean Briano said. “More so than just celebrating the day, 9/11 should be in our books as a lesson that is mandatorily taught so that the younger generations who are not even born yet will realize and understand it.”

The majority of Heritage students today were born after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with this year’s senior class being the first in which most students were not alive on that historic day. “Our kids are our future, and if we don’t preserve things for them and lead them in the right direction, then they’re destined to make the same mistakes. I’m not saying that the other subjects aren’t important, but history is fundamental to everything related to life today and how we got here,” Dean Briano said. “Things that are this big need to be talked about and explained by people who were there. I was there, and I will never forget it as long as I live.”

View a live stream of today’s 9/11 memorial ceremony here.
Read more about 9/11 here.
Never forget the names of those who died.
Check out iPatriotPost’s 9/11 memorial article from last year, where we debunked 9/11 conspiracy theories.

A white rose sits on a panel of the 9/11 memorial fountain. (Photo/CNN)

Kristen is a Cuban American senior at American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla. She is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Patriot Post, President of Student Government and co-founder of the non-profit Friends for Fosters. Kristen loves keeping up with politics, watching Netflix, reading and sleeping in. She considers herself a nerd due to her massive video game and comic collection.