SAN ANTONIO – Family members of a Long Island-raised 9/11 victim made their first trip to Texas on the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks to meet a dog that bears his name.
The TSA names bomb-sniffing dogs in honor of victims, and one is being fostered at Trinity University during time off from training.
Jurgens the dog is named after Paul Jurgens, who rushed to the Twin Towers moments after the attack.
His family members met the dog for the first time Tuesday.
A hero’s sister and brother-in-law shook paws with a hero-in-training. Humans and canine, bound by a day heroes earned their stripes.
"He would be overwhelmed,” Paul Jurgens’ sister Alice Sheldon says. “Really overwhelmed I think."
Paul Jurgens was an officer and trained firefighter for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
He was a triple hero: he rescued people from a plane crash; responded to the first attacks at the World Trade Center in the early nineties; and, of course, gave his life there.
"He had a profound respect for the military,” Alice says. “He was a former Marine. In many ways, he was still a Marine."
And he was someone who – as thousands fled Ground Zero – ran toward the flames, up the stairs and into danger.
"His body was never found,” brother-in-law John Sheldon says. “We don't know exactly even which building he was in."
Jurgens the dog honors the life cut short, by devoting her life to protecting us – just as her namesake did.
"It was the greatest rescue in this country,” Alice says. “Because of the police, firemen, everyday citizens – thousands of people made it out of those two towers that wouldn't have made it out.”
Jurgens the man and dog have more in common than just the name: the man once patrolled JFK airport in New York, and the dog will also patrol airports as one of many TSA dogs named after the heroes of 9/11.
"Behind each of those 3,000 names that died that day – there's a family,” John says.
And this family, still coming to grips with unprecedented loss, is comforted by the grasp of man’s best friend.
The Sheldons noted Paul was not the only Jurgens to die on 9/11: his cousin’s son was an Army medic who rushed to help, and was also never heard from again.