Retired NYPD officer, now Union Co. Sheriff’s deputy remembers 9/11 attack

Jim Kennedy, who was a detective with the NYPD, said the day started off like any other.
Union County Deputy Sheriff Jim Kennedy remembers the September 11 terrorist attack.
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 11:02 PM EDT
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WAXHAW, N.C. (WBTV) - Sept. 11, 2001.

“It was a beautiful day that just became real still,” Jim Kennedy said.

Kennedy, who was part of the detective squad for the New York City Police Department (NYPD), started off that day like any other day: at the precinct working to solve homicide cases.

Then terror hit America.

“All I could think about was how many civilians, firemen, cops, did we lose in that moment,” he said.

Like most of the country, he watched on live television the attack on the World Trade Center. He knew our country had been attacked, he said. His next thought was to call his wife.

“I said, ‘listen, our country is under attack.’ I need you to go get the kids out of school and go home and shelter down with them,” Kennedy said.

Immediately plans were made to send him to Manhattan. But, when the second Twin Tower went down, he said they were moved to Brooklyn.

“We were evacuating pedestrians and civilians coming across the bridge,” he said. “They were all covered with like a light gray dust. And we were rendering medical attention to them.”

For weeks, that became his norm.

Search and rescue.

Working the morgue.

“I ended up spending two and a half to three weeks at search and recovery. It was you know, we weren’t finding many people,” he said. “The people we did find, the civilians, the first responders, we put them on a stretcher, laid an American flag over them and gave a final salute.”

In 2007, he retired from the NYPD.

“The hardest part of 9/11 for me though was attending the funerals of the first responders. Watching the 2, 3-year-olds not knowing their mothers and fathers,” he said.

Three months after retirement, Union County became his home -- in part, he said, thanks to his sons and their love for lacrosse. He also says traveling to different states to catch criminals gave him the thought to move.

Now, Deputy Sheriff Kennedy can be seen walking the halls of Cuthbertson High School in Waxhaw.

As the school resource officer, he’s saved lives in a different way.

“I thought working murder cases was the most rewarding job in the world, giving closure to families who lost a loved one,” he said. “However, working with the youth is a 100 times better, keeping them out of trouble, steering them in the right direction, making sure they’re productive citizens, that’s my goal.”

As the days go on, Kennedy remembers those who’ve lost their lives -- during and after -- the terrorist attack.

“This has become part of the fabric of who I am, 9/11,” he said.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office has been highlighting deputies who served the country during the attacks. You can see their posts, by clicking here.

Related: Foundation pays off 21 mortgages for fallen first responder families ahead of 9/11