September 12, 2012 in City

Straub saw 9/11 up close

Police boss, working two blocks from ground zero, shares story with students
By The Spokesman-Review
Stacy Pelkie photo

Spokane’s Director of Law Enforcement Frank Straub (blue tie), Interim Police Police Chief Scott Stephens (center) and Spokane Police Capt. Brad Arleth participate in a blue mass on Sept. 11, 2012 at St. Charles Catholic Church in north Spokane. A blue mass celebrates police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

The new leader of the Spokane Police Department credits his life to a fire truck.

More specifically, the New York City Fire Department truck he used as shelter as the second World Trade Center tower collapsed 11 years ago about a block away.

“I was fortunate enough to get under a fire truck, and the fire truck saved our lives,” Frank Straub said Tuesday, responding to questions during his first news conference since being named Spokane’s law enforcement director Monday in a 6-0 confirmation vote by the Spokane City Council. “Unfortunately, I lost some friends.”

Leading up to his appointment in Spokane, much of the attention was focused on Straub’s two years as the public safety director in Indianapolis. But his resume is much more diverse.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Straub was working at the New York inspector general’s office, two blocks from the World Trade Center.

When the first plane hit, Straub was in an elevator headed toward the New York City Police Department to hand in some paperwork because he was only days away from starting a job in the department as the deputy commissioner of training. Straub said he witnessed the second plane hit the other tower.

On Tuesday, in Spokane, he started his day with SPD Interim Chief Scott Stephens and two others from the command staff at a Mass celebrating first responders and remembering 9/11 at St. Charles Catholic Church and school in north Spokane.

“I thought it was very powerful that St. Charles took time out of their day to talk to young people who – maybe some of them weren’t even born,” Straub said.

After the Mass, while St. Charles students and police and firefighters were taking pictures in front of a fire truck, the Rev. Tom Connolly, pastor of St. Charles, discovered Straub’s story and asked him to talk to about 40 seventh- and eighth-graders about his experience.

Connolly said the students saw a movie about 9/11 in preparation for the day. Straub agreed to stay and addressed the class for about 10 minutes.

“To hear from a man who was in the midst of it just kind of left them speechless,” Connolly said.

In the weeks that followed the collapse of the towers, Straub started his new job, which included counterterrorism training, and worked “off and on” like many other police and firefighters searching for human remains in the rubble.

Straub said citizens must remember 9/11 not only for the people who died that day but for the troops still fighting as a result.

“We have to accept the reality that it could happen again. We live in a place like Spokane and we tend to think that that happens somewhere else, but it happened in Oklahoma City,” he said. “We have to not live in fear, but be mindful of the reality that every city is a potential target, and we have to make sure that we have the resources and preparedness in place to deal with that reality.”

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