On Tuesday afternoon, October 13, Maria Dziergowski, Tatyanna Timoshenko and Sonia Cunningham stood before the NYPD officers of Transit District 23 on Beach 116th Street to share the message that they have their back. After all, these women know firsthand the importance of supporting the NYPD. They all had an NYPD officer in their life who died in the line of duty. In recent weeks, through the connection of retired NYPD Transit Chief and local resident Joe Fox, these family members have joined in the effort of those behind the Thank You NYPD Facebook page to lift the spirits of officers at a time when morale is low.
Retired NYPD Transit Chief turned life coach, Joe Fox, spoke about some of the obstacles the NYPD has had to endure in recent months and the reason for Tuesday’s event. “The greatest reason why we’re here, as crime and shootings and homicides go up, remember before 2020, whenever a police officer was attacked or shot at or God forbid murdered, every single elected official used this language: ‘an attack on a police officer, is an attack on each of us.’ Has anyone heard anybody say that in the last six months? I haven’t. Not once. Shame on them,” Fox said.
He then reminded the officers of their purpose. “You believe in what you do, you do what you believe, you say what you believe and you care about people and put your lives on the line for people you don’t know and you still do that in spite of being vilified by so many,” Fox said. “We have to get through this, but we will. People can attack us, they can take their respect and gratitude away, but there’s one thing no one can take from us and that’s the mission. The only way you lose that is by giving it up or forgetting it and if you ever forget it and ever want to know what that mission is, go find that letter that somebody wrote to you for the impact you made on them when you recovered their phone or made an arrest or saved them.”
Fox then introduced Anna and Anthony Delfaus, who in 2014, launched the Thank You NYPD Facebook page to show support for NYPD officers at a time when negative sentiment against the NYPD was rampant across the nation following the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island and then Michael Brown in Ferguson. Despite receiving death threats, they kept the page going. “I’m not going to be silenced,” Anna Delfaus said.
The page, which grew a following of more than 121,000 people, would become even more important in 2020 when protests and anti-police sentiment arose again following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. However, Delfaus wanted to take their show of support beyond posting positive messages. “While everyone was screaming defund the police, I started a GoFundMe to refuel the police,” she told the officers on Tuesday. “So far we’ve raised over $27,000.” With that funding, Delfaus decided to use the Thank You NYPD movement to provide food for officers at every precinct across New York City. Tuesday’s visit to Transit District 23 was stop 35. “There is no New York City without the NYPD. So please stay safe out there and know you have tons of support. There are a lot more people out there that support you than don’t,” Delfaus told the officers.
Chief Fox came across the page after they shared a video in early summer of Tatyanna Timoshenko speaking to a counter protestor at a pro-police rally in Brooklyn. Fox recalled the video in which a black man was confronting Timoshenko in an intense scene, but the man’s demeanor changed and softened after Timoshenko explained that her 23-year-old son, Russel Timoshenko, was killed on the job in 2007. Inspired by the video’s hopeful message, Fox reached out to those behind the Facebook page and asked how he could assist them. At the time, Thank You NYPD had made 15 visits to refuel officers at precincts across the city. When Fox got involved, he reached out to other family members of officers killed in the line of duty, who were more than willing to come out to show support during the stops at each precinct, and make them even more meaningful with something more than a meal.
Sonia Cunningham, who came all the way from Texas, knows firsthand the importance of supporting police. Her son, Sgt. Keith Ferguson, died in the line of duty in January 2004. Cunningham spoke of how the NYPD never forgot her, and how she wanted to pay it forward to them. “I want you to look at the color of my face,” the black woman said. “There are a lot of us that support NYPD. I have a large family and we’re all about NYPD. Please do not feel discouraged or disrespected by the yahoos who are behaving poorly and encouraged by politicians. You have our support. More importantly, people of color are those who need the most support from NYPD. So please understand we are grateful, we are appreciative. Do not be deterred, keep doing what you’re doing. I will be out there along with others thanking you every single day because I was able to get through the loss of my son because NYPD, for 16 years, they never, ever, let me out of their sight.”
Maria Dziergowski, whose husband, Matthew, was killed in the line of duty in 1999, spoke on behalf of fallen officers. “We’re here on behalf of our loved ones that can’t speak anymore to tell you how proud we are of you. If you’re watching the news, I know it can get to you. All of the naysayers and talking heads have something negative to say about the NYPD, but we’re representing the average New Yorker to tell you how much you’re loved, and we appreciate you,” Dziergowski said.
Timoshenko, the woman featured in the video that touched Chief Fox, was also there to share a few words of encouragement. “Thank you for everything that you do. You’re very important to me. I know a lot of people appreciate you. I’m your back, I’m your shoulders. I will always protect you. Please stay safe, I love you all,” Timoshenko said.
Asked how long Fox will continue to join in these stops with Thank You NYPD, he said, “Until police officers get the respect and the support that they deserve, we’ll continue to do these visits.”
To follow the Thank You NYPD page, head to www.facebook.com/Thankyounypd.fb
By Katie McFadden
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