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Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and wife Irene remember fallen NYPD Officer Anastasios Tsakos at his funeral on Long Island.
BILL DE BLASIO: Thank you, Father, and thank you for all you've done to comfort the family. [INAUDIBLE] it's a tremendous honor for all of us have you here. I know for this good family, your presence means so much.
We're all mourning right now. We're all in pain right now. It does not make sense that such a good man in every way could possibly be gone.
The family is mourning someone they loved with all their heart. The NYPD is mourning their fallen brother. The city is mourning [INAUDIBLE] a man who did everything right. It does not make sense how someone could live his life right in every way, and be taken from us so horribly.
But his heroism uplifts us. Some people are true heroes. Some people are there for others. And that, in every way, was Anastasios Tsakos.
Every story I've heard is of a man who went the extra mile for someone else no matter what. No matter what. A neighbor who needed help during COVID, or a fellow officer, or a stranger he met in crisis. Whoever it was, he was there for them, because that was his heart, to serve others.
For 14 years, he served this city with tremendous distinction. His love for New York City, his love for America, and his love for Greece, his love for his family, his love, duty, honor animated him in every way. We all grow up to our top stories of Greek heroes.
Today we honor a Greek hero from our time. In the stories, in the mythology, we hear of extraordinary acts of selflessness and braveness. And here is a man who exemplified all that and more.
Family, his beautiful and strong family, is going through an unspeakable pain right now. When I saw them, one thing came through loud and clear. We cannot let him have died in vain. And so for all of us, there is something we can do.
For all of us, we can recognize something is wrong, and we can work hard to fix it. Anastasios was never afraid of hard work. We have some hard work to do.
We have to bring our communities back together in peace and unity. We have to bring police and community back together and rebuild that bond. And we have to do something to ensure that what happened to him never happens to another officer or another loved one because it is wrong.
In our society, somehow, when people drive while intoxicated, somehow, in some way, it is still tolerated. And it cannot be because anyone who drives while intoxicated threatens the lives of everyone in their path. And the laws are not strong enough. Because it still happen all the time, every day, hour by hour.
It is something that we all know is wrong, and yet we watch. So I say this, this year, we have a chance to finally do something different, to pass a law in Albany that will finally penalize those that drive drunk, and hurt others, and kill others. To finally bring consequences where they have not existed, to take this problem seriously. To ensure there truly are penalties for those who have done wrong.
This work has to happen now, and I hope we will all join together. Because until people truly pay the consequences for their actions, someone else will get behind the wheel tonight and put everyone else in their path in danger. We need to make this change, and we need to make it in honor of Officer Anastasios Tsakos.
To this family, to Irene, your strength is so clear, your heart is so clear. To his parents, Anna and Steve, what you did in bringing up this young man should be a source tremendous pride, even in this moment of the pain, because he did so much blood in this world. To his sister, Katrina, his brother, [INAUDIBLE], I know you will be there for these good children.
And I want to say to his children, to Jenny and Steve, even though I know these words can't make sense at this young age, a word I hope will bring you comfort. Because in my own way, I can understand a little bit of what you will feel in life. I lost my father young, he wore the uniform of his country. And you will feel a loss.
You will feel something missing. But you'll feel also an angel on your shoulder, because your father was a hero and now the whole world knows it. And you will know, even in the most painful moments, even in moments of doubt, that you were born of a hero.
That hero will be watching out for you every day of your life. Let's all be aware of this family, and be there for each other. Thank you, and God bless you all.
- At this time-- at this time, we would kindly ask the Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, the honorable Dermot Shea to approach for his remarks.
DERMOT SHEA: Your Emminence, [INAUDIBLE], Father [INAUDIBLE], the staff and congregation of Saints Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine church, Father [INAUDIBLE] of our NYPD [INAUDIBLE], thank you for hosting us inside this beautiful place of worship today. Irene, Stavro, Jenny, Adam, Stavros, [INAUDIBLE], extended family [INAUDIBLE], Mayor de Blasio, Inspector [INAUDIBLE], Captain [INAUDIBLE], and all of Anastasios' co-workers and friends, two families, on behalf of the entire New York City Police Department, I extend to you our most profound condolences.
As we gather here today still reeling from the tragic death of Tasso, as everyone knew him, we are shocked, scared, angered at the unfairness, senselessness that took him from us. We seek to make sense of this to understand why it happened, what plan could they have been a part of, what possible lesson could be gleaned from this. Well-meaning and intentioned people will tell us that it was all part of God's plan, and that Tasso, is in a better place. And I believe that is true.
But at the same time, we cry out that while God certainly know his plan, we do not. And while Tasso, may be in a better place, we all want him here with us. And unfortunately, there are no easy answers.
As a family, as friends, as a community, we express our sadness, we acknowledge the great importance of Tasso's life, and we acknowledge the loss that his passing brings to all of us. And although we must bravely face the fact of his death, we owe it to Tasso and to ourselves to celebrate his contributions to this world. His journey to assist other highway patrol officers on the Long Island Expressway last Tuesday changed all of our lives forever. But that journey is one of a multitude of journeys that will have a lasting effect on us.
What is it that takes a humble origin to a number of very interesting places to learn, to live, to love, to build a family, and to achieve all sorts of success, to make many friendships and to live a vast array of wonderful experiences? Well, my job as Police Commissioner today is to stand up here and tell you what a great cop Tasso was. And he absolutely was a great cop.
But the man I've gotten to know over the last [INAUDIBLE] so through stories is much more. Tasso was, from beginning to end, a very intelligent and hardworking man. He was the envy of his peers. He was really the perfect picture of the American dream, an example of our nation's great diversity. Also an example of the extraordinary call to service that so many courageous New Yorkers embrace, even if only for a small part of their lives.
Born in Dover, New Hampshire, Tasso had the benefit of fiercely proud parents, determined to make sure that their child was raised Greek, and always understood their Greek heritage. And I can appreciate that because I had similar parents with a different heritage. For the first 14 years of his life, Tasso lived and flourished in [INAUDIBLE] about 5,000 miles away, a small coastal town in southern Greece.
In the early 1990s, he, his brother, Teddy, and his father returned to the United States where Tasso would graduate from high school, achieve a degree in Aviation Administration, [INAUDIBLE] At 23 years of age, Tasso worked at one of his father's diners. [INAUDIBLE] And he had a plan, Tasso did, which was one day to fly helicopters.
But first, Tasso had an obligation to uphold. It was a requirement that, as a Greek living abroad, he could have put off, but he chose not to. A sign of the man he was. So he returned to his ancestral homeland and enlisted in the Greek army for a year, finding himself immediately promoted to Second Lieutenant due to his status as a college graduate.
Tasso liked authority, and it came through in story after story that I heard. What it meant, what it stood for. He liked honesty, he was a man of honor, and he liked order in his life.
In a continuation of his plan, he returned to America and joined our police department in 2007 with, again, the end goal of getting behind a helicopter for the NYPD. Along the way, he had become a private pilot, and was licensed to fly single-engine planes. He would take single trips out of [INAUDIBLE] airport on Long Island and log over 300 hours.
After the police academy, Tasso was assigned first to the 75th precinct, and then to the 83rd precinct in Brooklyn. Again, for those that are not part of our police department, these are very tough assignments. And he relished it.
And since 2014, Tasso was an invaluable member of the NYPD's elite highway patrol unit. Highway doesn't just take anyone. You can't just decide one day I want to go highway. It is a rigorous application process.
So a little of what got Tasso, there, well, first it was his [INAUDIBLE] precinct [INAUDIBLE] Perhaps it was his exemplary sick record, which I know where he got it from. [INAUDIBLE] 14 years. The last time he called in sick was a decade ago. So all of that got him his interview, and it landed him in the highway division.
And he loved his assignment just as much as he loved riding his Harley Davidson, even when the weather wasn't that good, and probably a little too fast, from what I hear. [INAUDIBLE] as we said, not only was 10 years ago the time that he last went sick, but Tasso met Irene here in the United States a decade ago too. And the couple married in Greece two years later. Then came daughter Jenny, then came little Stavros, and there we have a family.
Tasso continued to work hard. The family recently bought a home and moved from Queens to [INAUDIBLE] literally living the American dream. And while his plan still called for him to fly helicopters, highway patrol was a perfect fit for Tasso. The order he kept in his own life and the high standard to which he held everyone else to translated into a dedicated and extremely productive guardian of the roads, keeping others [INAUDIBLE]
And while he made a difficult job look easy, the truth is that pulling over seniors, and helping stranded motorists, and investigating car crashes was really no safer than his prior assignments in Brooklyn. Highway cops, and I've heard this myself, will tell you stepping out of cars and onto a road is one of the most nerve-wracking and dangerous things you can do. Distracted drivers racing past, curious rubberneckers not realizing that they're actually [INAUDIBLE]
There are many near misses, and that's under normal circumstances. But when you add [INAUDIBLE] to those scenarios, and the person who makes mistake after mistake, bad decisions, and who still gets behind the wheel of a car despite already having a suspended license, the result is this funeral.
Thankfully, the person who killed Tasso was caught only after she fled the scene, another ill-advised decision that should have real consequences. I don't know what justice will look like in this scenario, but it cannot possibly heal two broken families. It's a mystery of the deepest, most painful kind, why him? How did it happen? And it will hurt forever. Our anger, however, can be transformed into change. And [INAUDIBLE] can make us all better people.
There is a national conversation going on right now that I had mentioned about the role of police in society. Well, that's a conversation for another day, perhaps. I hope that when that conversation does take place, that people remember Anastasios Tsakos and what he lived for, and what he died for. I hope he understands that men and women in law enforcement are willing and eager to evolve, and are holding the line every day while others try to figure it out, desperately waiting for others to figure it out.
I think it's a productive discussion to have, because the police alone cannot [INAUDIBLE]. These things require full and willing partnership of everyone working together. But still, our police, your police, bravely approach each shift and to each 911 call, each car stop on the highway, with the knowledge that they can help people. And that's exactly what they do. They can save lives.
What they need, what they deserve, what they have earned is everyone's support. People who break the law get arrested and taken in because cops like Tasso take the responsibility of making some decisions on behalf of others. It is a weight to bear, knowing their choices will directly affect others' lives. But cops like Tasso do not shy away from it, and wear it as a badge of courage. It's the foundation of who they are.
I can tell you it's hard, it's challenging, It's stressful work, but it is a fundamental part of our often Democratic society. And cops like Tasso are proud to do it each and every day. It's the oath they all swore, it's the promise they made to every New Yorker each and every day, and to themselves, that they have dedicated their lives, they would give their lives, to keep others safe.
While all police officers embrace this responsibility, cops stand out like Tasso whenever he was on the line. He was the one you were grateful to arrive on the scene, the one you could always rely on. He was the one that always asked what else can I do. And making almost 200 arrests in his career, Tasso led his fellow highway police officers in stopping drunk drivers and recovering stolen goods.
He always hated that anyone would get away with anything on his shift, when it was his responsibility. That's why he even volunteered to go to court, which we didn't allow because of [INAUDIBLE] on his own time, because he hated people to get away with things. His colleagues [INAUDIBLE] highway would tell story after story of his professionalism, his commitment to policing, but not only that, also his magnet-like ability to attract the most complicated of scenes.
In the police department, we call such things [INAUDIBLE] It's a job that you don't want to respond to, it's so complicated. But Tasso had a knack. He had a knack for not only responding to it, but handling it, and handling it with the utmost professionalism. When I was at highway last week, they marveled at the ability that he had to take a scene that you couldn't possibly describe, and to put it onto paper that would be presented the court. He took honor in that. There's another name for those types of jobs, but we are in a house of worship, so I cannot repeat it right now.
But I think you can use your imagination. What I will say is that Tasso approached every hectic, stressful situation with calm, dry humor. I had a lot of these stories to choose from, so I had to be a little diplomatic at which one I told. So I'll tell this one. That one time, while following a vehicle that was traveling probably too fast on the highway, his commanding officer came over the police radio and said terminate the pursuit. A few minutes passed, Tasso distinct, Greek accent came over the radio, "it self-terminated, central. His car is on fire.
He's not going anywhere."
[LAUGHTER] And here's my favorite part, "but send the fire [INAUDIBLE]"
His co-workers-- and there were many, many stories-- his co-workers, who do an admirable job of imitating Tasso's deadpan delivery, insisted his name and photo should be hanging up in Highway 3, and I have a feeling it will be. The reason why it should be hanging up on Highway 3 is because he won the Cop of the Year award for so long, recognized by his peers for his exceptional duty. While his tenacity and strength made him a leader among his contemporaries, he would shy away from and even downplay the accolades that actually came as a result of his actions. He knew what was important. And I'm looking at what was important.
Another story I liked was that he would stay late to finish the job, and then race home, Irene, to you. And the officer told me, somehow, he would speed past him on the highway, but that's another story. He had that balance right. And throughout his remarkable life, Tasso just wanted to do what was right, and he desperately wanted others to do the same. And I know that he got that from his mom and dad, and his upbringing, and his service to Greece. I would ask everyone who can hear my voice today just take a moment to appreciate police officers like Anastasios.
They truly are the very best among us. They are your neighbors. They put themselves in harm's way each and every day to keep everyone safe. That is Tasso's enduring legacy, his legacy protects us still, and that legacy expands today, because I have the distinct honor to promote Tasso to the rank of Detective [INAUDIBLE].
Irene, Jenny, Stavros, Stavos and [INAUDIBLE], we honor and will always honor Tasso' memory. We pick up where he left off. We won't nearly finish his work, but the respect is in the effort. Got bless you all.
- Brothers and sisters, at this point, please help me welcome to the podium Irene Tsakos, the beloved wife of Anastasios.
IRENE TSAKOS: Thank you all for being here today to honor my beloved husband. It's impossible to summarize in a few words who my husband was and what he meant to us. I can try and give you a little glimpse.
Tasso was an amazing person. He was the nicest guy you could ever meet, a good man. He truly was. He was kind to everyone, and helpful to anyone.
He was a doer. If there was a need for help, and my husband was around, he would do the job. Whether at work or anywhere else, whether for a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a stranger, you knew Tasso would be the first to help. He cared about people, truly cared.
If he could make a life a little easier, a little better, he would do it. It mattered to him. Tasso-- was also very funny. He loved making people laugh. Leave it to Tasso to come up with a quick and witty response, to make you laugh.
He was an excellent motorcycle rider. He learned how to ride at a very young age, and loved to ride his motorcycle any chance he could. As you heard, he was also an airplane pilot. One of his dreams was to one day win the lotto and buy a small airplane so we could travel the world.
He was an eternal optimist, and he could always find the bright side of things. He was an awesome, awesome person, but he was also very humble. Our family was his biggest pride and joy.
He would often tell me, babe, I wake and I sleep with you and the kids in mind. Everything I do, I do it for you. And he worked very, very hard to do that. He was the best father to our children, so loving and nurturing. He was the hands-on dad. There was nothing he wouldn't do for his children. He was their playmate and he loved us. He built them little houses out of cardboard boxes, take them to the park, or play with them in the yard or the driveway. He would tell them funny bedtime stories which would keep them up instead of put them to sleep.
Our kids would climb his back, and he would play horsey.
He comforted them when they had nightmares or when they were sick. He taught our son the names of all his tools, and they were many, and let my daughter play hair dresser with his hair. Any time our kids heard keys at the door, they knew it was daddy coming home from work, and they would scream from excitement, and jump-- jump up and down, and he could only hear them.
Most days, he would bring little surprises too. He was their fun guy. So many times I'd watch my husband play with my kids, and I would silently say to God, thank you, Lord, I am happy. And Tasso would look at my and smile. All I wanted was what I had, nothing more.
I had my other half, my best friend, the father of my children. I had him and he had me. We were a team. It's me and you, babe, is what he's always tell me. It's me and you.
And [INAUDIBLE] he always knew what to say to make me feel better and even laugh. And we laughed a lot. We enjoyed each other's company. My heart would even skip a beat when I looked at him 10 years later, just as it did the very first time I met him.
I will miss everything about him, everything. But most of all, I will miss his hugs. I wish he had more time to watch our kids grow, to see them off to college, and get married. I wish we could grow together. That was the plan.
But he was taken from us too soon, and now our kids will grow up without their dad, without their awesome dad. But I will make sure they know who he is. Every day, they'll see his face and learn about all the wonderful things he did, and what a hero he was.
They will never forget, I will make sure of that. Tasso, you are the love of my life. I hope I make you proud.
--you have my angel now. Please hold him dear. [INAUDIBLE] to watch over us. I love you always and forever. 'Till you hold me in your arms again, my love, [INAUDIBLE].