Arlene Howard presented a very moving picture when she pressed her son George’s New York Port Authority Police Department shield into the hand of President George W. Bush. The 77-year-old’s son had died helping to rescue victims of the September 11 attacks, and President Bush was well aware of the honor behind the gesture. After thanking her, he whispered to her, “We’ll get them.” Nine days later, proving that he considered the shield to be a symbol of the many lives lost, he produced it while addressing the nation before a joint session of Congress. “And I will carry this. It is the police shield of a man named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others… This is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end.” On Veterans’ Day in New York City, Arlene Howard saw her son’s shield again. President Bush, introduced her as not only a friend and U.S. Navy veteran but “a veteran of September 11.”
George Howard was a single father of two teenage sons. An expert in technical rescue, a volunteer firefighter, and a fire-academy trainer, he received the PAPD’s Medal of Valor for rappelling down an elevator shaft to save more than 60 people after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The courage that characterized George Howard was evidently inherited from his late father, a former World War II Navy lieutenant, and from his mother, who counts a New York Police Department sergeant, a U.S. Navy captain, an Air Force veteran, and a daughter who serves at U.S. Space Command in Colorado among her children. ♦
Editor’s note: Arlene Howard passed away on March 31, 2019, at the age of 95. Her family shared at the time that President Bush Bush remained friends with Howard even after he left office. When Bush made his farewell address to the nation in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 15, 2009, Howard was one of his guests, and he kissed her on the forehead after his speech.
Port Authority Police Department Superintendent Ed Cetnar said in a statement. “Arlene Howard was a pillar of strength and courage in the days and weeks that followed and a symbol for the nation’s grief and the healing process in the aftermath of one of the most tragic periods in United States history. She remained a true friend to the department and we mourn her passing and offer our sincere condolences on behalf of the entire Port Authority family.”
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