Coastal Carolina Shields was started five years ago with 30 retired law enforcement officers. The area group, modeled after Shields organizations in New York, was limited to retired officers to keep the size manageable, president Dennis Cangelosi recalls.
The group recently accepted its 530th member and adds another 10 or so every month as retiring officers move to the Grand Strand. “I don’t see it stopping.’’ Cangelosi says.
Coastal Carolina Shields has members from 20 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. Members include retired federal agents, state troopers and local officers like Cangelosi who was a police sergeant in Rockland County, north of New York City. Rockland County is where Shields started in 1966, as a fraternity to promote brotherhood and fellowship among active and retired officers. Some area members worked their law enforcement careers in Florida and retired here. The majority of area members worked in the New York Police Department.
Today, the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Shields will hold its annual remembrance for members and guests in Hall of Heroes in the Sands Resort, Myrtle Beach. The ceremony is among many 9/11 memorials today, including those of the FDNY-Carolinas Retirees Association from the New York City Fire Department.
Coastal Carolina Shields’ main service project is sending boxes of coffee, candy, socks, toiletries and so forth to military men and women serving overseas. “We do about four mailings a year, 20 boxes per quarter.’’ Members bring items to monthly meetings. Bill Petras collects the items and Willie Torres, who has a mailing company, handles the shipping.
“They’ve been doing a great job,’’ Cangelosi says. “We’re looking for names and addresses’’ of primarily -- but not limited to -- S.C. military people abroad. Shields members know how much the shipments are appreciated from letters. “... Bill reads the letters at meetings. We hear from company commanders saying it’s a hard adjustment’’ for the young troops.
Today, Shields members especially will remember first responders 12 years ago.
“We have many members who were at the scene,’’ Cangelosi says. One of those is Lou Haarstick, now the Shields chapter chaplain. He became an ordained minister after retiring from the NYPD and is in a ministry at the Georgetown County Detention Center.
On Sept. 11, 2001, he was a member of an evidence collection team. “We were there close to two months. My station was next to the temporary morgue.’’ Every time remains of an officer or firefighter were found “we went out to give a hand salute.’’ The remains might have been only a gun belt. “It was very emotional and surreal.’’ Haarstick wants no attention for his role, saying “I was just another cop among many.’’
“A sad legacy is that we still [have] over 1,000 first responders being treated for various cancers’’ related to the debris of the twin towers, Cangelosi says. In 12 years, 54 have died of causes directly connected to the aftermath of the attack. “You see the ages [of those dying] -- in the 40s and 50s -- and it’s unnerving.’’
Those brave souls surely are among those remembered today, 12 years after the terrorist attack labeled simply 9/11.