M.S. 101 tribute remembers PO Byrne on naming anniversary

(l-r) Maria Leonard, Larry Byrne and Teresa Wong in front of police officer Byrne’s memorial display case.
Photo by Aracelis Batista

On Tuesday, February 27, M.S. 101, named the P.O. Edward R. Byrne School, gathered students and community members to remember the man who the school had been named after.

Breakfast was served, smiles were shared and the sun shone down on the building on what could only be described as a somber but beautiful February day.

Members of the NYPD, including Commissioner James O’Neill, along with local leaders and police officer Byrne’s oldest brother, Larry Byrne, attended the event to share the story of the life and legacy of police officer Byrne.

“I loved him as my brother and he was a special kid,” said Larry Byrne, who is the deputy commissioner of the NYPD.

“Every morning on my way to my office I walk by our Wall of Heroes and I look up and I see Eddy’s name on the wall and it motivates me to do my work and help others the way he did,” said deputy commissioner Byrne.

The event was organized by M.S.101’s Parent-Teacher Association president and retired cop Maria Leonard, who was not part of the school’s PTA during the naming, but said she wanted to help make the 30th anniversary of police officer Byrne’s death special for the community.

She helped gather the guests from the NYPD, local community leaders, sponsors and even a company to clean and refurbish the monument to police officer Byrne that sits under a large pine tree in front of the school.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s been 30 years,” said former councilman James Vacca, who was the president of School Board 8 in the 80s and helped get the school named for Byrne after his death.

“All the students who come here know of police officer Byrne and they respect law enforcement,” said Vacca.

Another Throggs Neck resident that led the school’s naming for police officer Byrne, Chief Edward Delatorre, was also present for the special event.

Some shared their stories of how they remember hearing the news of police officer Byrne’s death, while others listened in on the tales of the tragedy for the first time.

Commissioner O’Neill, who was still working as a transit cop in the subways at the time, spoke to the middle schoolers about the job of the NYPD.

“People become police officers because they want to make a difference,” said Commissioner O’Neill. “It requires you to care deeply for someone other than yourself.”

Police officer Byrne was only 22-years-old for five days when he was assigned to guard the house of a family in Jamaica, Queens who agreed to testify against a group of notorious drug dealers.

He was still a rookie police officer and worked out of the 103rd Precinct.

It was always his dream to become a police officer for the NYPD, much like his brother and his father.

“His assassination was a tipping point (in the war against drugs) and that’s really when the battle began to take back the city,” said deputy commissioner Byrne.

“It’s important we remember Eddie not because he’s my brother, but because of what he represents, a lawless time that we have to put behind us.”

The ceremony was concluded by a moment of silence and the NYPD Emerald Society Bagpipes and Drums organization played ‘Amazing Grace’ in remembrance of Officer Byrne.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.

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