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Chicago top cop Garry McCarthy honors fallen NYPD friends in honorary 9/11 roll call

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy  |  Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

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Updated: October 14, 2012 1:38PM

It’s a little unnerving when Chicago’s tough top cop, Garry McCarthy, gets choked up.

But McCarthy’s voice didn’t quiver Tuesday because of the Chicago teachers strike.

His Bronx accent wavered when McCarthy — who as a New York City cop spent Sept.11, 2001, looking for survivors and recovering bodies from the Twin Towers terrorist attack — talked about his fellow New York police officers who died that day.

“I personally knew 13 of the 23 police officers who died and I have a special way to keep their names alive,” McCarthy told Sneed.“I am going to conduct a roll call of the men who died via text with about five guys who served with me in New York,” he said.

“I text each of the names of the 23 officers and they each text back ‘present,’ ” said McCarthy — who took an occasional moment to gather his emotions. One of those killed was his close pal, John Dallara, whose locker was next to McCarthy’s during his first few years on the force.

McCarthy took cover alongside New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and NYPD chief Joe Esposito as the first tower collapsed — and spent the next six days sifting through rubble.

He also recovered the mangled license plate of his police car that had been crushed by falling debris — a memento he would place on the shelf in his Chicago office 10 years later when he accepted the top cop job here.

“One of my buddies texted me this morning and asked me ‘What time is roll call?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this little teacher strike thing, so roll call’s gonna be late today.’ ”

The tradition began a few months after 9/11 in the locker room of the New York Police Department’s football team (McCarthy was a linebacker), where he said each of the dead officers’ names in an honorary roll call.

“I said their names and everyone in the locker room yelled ‘present,’ ” McCarthy told Sneed. “In the years after that when I was still on the East Coast, a few of us we’d get together and have dinner and do a toast for each guy and kind of talk about them.”

Now 800 miles separates him from that close group of friends, so McCarthy conducts his roll call via text message.

They are the same people McCarthy reached out to when he heard Osama bin Laden had been killed.

“I had just flown into Chicago the night before the mayor was supposed to announce I was the new superintendent,” he said. “I was having dinner at Custom House on Dearborn when a friend texted me the news. I went to the bar and had them turn on CNN and the president came on.

“Then I went outside and called Joe Esposito, who was outside his house banging pots and pans and chanting ‘The devil is dead! The devil is dead!’....or something like that.”

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