Among the falling debris from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, a photograph of a bright-smiled family landed Brandon del Pozo’s feet.
“I thought if I left it there, it’d just be lost forever,” Pozo told NBC New York.
So the NYPD officer and a National Guardsman at the time held on to the nameless family photo through his search and rescue mission and for the next two decades. It was on the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that he found the picture again and searched for its rightful owner.
“September 11 is my birthday. I went to the basement to find the journals I wrote the day before 9/11 and I found that picture,” said Pozo, a former Burlington, Vermont chief of police. “I put it online and I was kind of shock how it made its way around the world.”
The photo Pozo posted on his Facebook page was shared thousands of times and he was able to identify the family. With more than 2,700 people who perished in the WTC attacks, Pozo and everyone who searched for the family of five were relieved to learn that they were safe.
The woman pictured, Susan Beyman, said her husband Jon was supposed to attend the Risk Waters conference in the Twin Towers that horrific day. By chance, he had to fly to London the night before. Beyman commented on the photo and said she got goosebumps after seeing it.
“Please know that I have tears in my eyes right now from everyone’s outpouring of love and support and I have goosebumps thinking that our photo has been shared around the world. Our family is all healthy, safe and grown and we all can not thank you enough for caring. And Brandon, our thanks again for finding us–everyone, please all stay safe and well–L’Shana Tova,” she wrote.
Beyman declined to be interviewed, saying that the story is Pozo’s and not about her family.
“We were surprised and appreciative of his efforts but we are most especially grateful for what he and others like him did on 9/11 and the aftermath. It was a random moment that he happened to pick up our picture but this is his story and what he did harnessing the power of social media,” Beyman said in a statement.
Though her family’s photo had become a reminder of all the loss and pain of the attacks for Pozo, it now has taken on a new meaning.
“I’m glad to know the photo itself, despite having that symbolic meaning for me, was of a family that survived and is thriving,” Pozo said. “It shows that life does go on.”