A Hero Whose Life Would Make a Book

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Downtown OTTY Awards, Special Sections.


James Rudolph foiled an armed robbery and responded to both WTC attacks

By Alex Mikoulianitch

Officer James Rudolph of Transit District 2 in downtown Manhattan dreamed of becoming a dentist when he was a child. He ended up becoming an outstanding officer who responded to both World Trade Center attacks, and who is praised as a hero.

“I always wanted to be a cop, deep down inside,” Rudolph said. But for a time, he said, “I wanted to be a dentist. My aunt and uncle bought a house, and a dentist used to be in it. I watched all the X-rays, and I thought it was pretty cool.”

Rudolph was born and raised in Brooklyn. He went to Nazareth High School and then to Kingsborough Community College. After enlisting in the New York Police Department, Rudolph has led a career worth writing a book about. From a shooting in Brooklyn, to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, Rudolph was always there when he was needed.

“I was a very active police officer my whole career,” Rudolph said. “I was involved in a shooting back in 1992 in Lower Manhattan. I responded two times to the World Trade Center. I’ve locked up numerous criminals.”

The shooting, which involved an armed robbery, prompted the New York Daily News to honor him and his partner at the time, Michael Mazzioti.

“Back in 1992, I was on foot patrol with my partner at the time, who’s now retired, and pretty much what happened was, we were alerted to an armed robbery in the street,” Rudolph said. “There was a guy with a gun, holding up two tourists. When we went to apprehend him, he ran and jumped into a car.”

The situation immediately became hazardous as the suspect tried to escape.

“Unbeknownst to us, there was more than one perpetrator,” Rudolph said. “They tried to elude us and almost ran us over twice. Finally, the guy that was in the passenger seat stuck his gun out the window and you know, we had to do what we got to do. They were apprehended and there were 500 rounds of ammunition in the car.”

The arrests gave Rudolph a taste of what saving the day was like. But the attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001 were what really made him understand what being a hero meant.

“In 1993, [I was] on foot patrol, that afternoon, when we responded,” Rudolph said. “There was a big boom that was heard all over Manhattan. We responded to the Trade Center and we were notified that someone from the Fire Department had fallen through a large crater and the mezzanine level into the garage area. So my partner and I helped carry all the equipment into the garage, which was all pancaked. We were standing in knee-deep water to try and rescue a [firefighter] out from under the debris. We [got him] out of there and just continued about the day.”

The second encounter with a World Trade Center attack was much more traumatic for Rudolph, as it was for many who saw the horror with their own eyes.

“[We] responded after the first plane hit the building, of course,” Rudolph said. “It was a very horrific day. [We were] just guiding people to safety, getting people out of the rubble. It was very traumatic.”

Rudolph stood, watched and realized that what was happening was actually a terrorist attack once the second plane smashed into the second tower.

“When the second plane hit, I was like, ‘We’re under attack! We have a problem,’” Rudolph said.

Thankfully, Rudolph survived the day, though he, among many others who experienced the devastating attack, went through a period of health problems brought on by exposure to the debris and smoke. Now, 11 years later, Rudolph is still wearing the dark blue uniform and making his daily rounds and is recognized for his unwavering service to the city of New York.

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