LOWER MANHATTAN — Ten years and one week after Robert Reardon rushed to the fires at Ground Zero, the retired NYPD detective returned to the attack site and tried to visit the new 9/11 Memorial for the first time.
But Reardon, 54, a Staten Island resident, was turned away because, as many retired police officers do, he was carrying a gun.
"I still can not believe the disrespect I felt, and feel now," Reardon wrote in an e-mail to DNAinfo after the Sept. 18 incident. "We are retired members of the NYPD. We all have permits to carry our weapons. We are not criminals. We are not terrorists."
Reardon said he had reserved a memorial visitor pass in advance and traveled to lower Manhattan on Sept. 18 with friends and family members, planning to commemorate a woman they knew who was killed, and whose remains have never been recovered.
He said he was stunned to be barred from entering the site where he had unhesitatingly responded 10 years earlier.
The 9/11 Memorial referred questions about the firearm policy to the NYPD, which did not respond to requests for comment. The mayor's office did not immediately return a call for comment.
But a source familiar with the policy said that retired or off-duty law-enforcement officers are not allowed to bring guns into the 9/11 Memorial, except on seven dedicated first responder days this fall.
That policy, which does not apply to on-duty officers, was determined by the NYPD, the source said.
As word about the rule spread among retired NYPD officers this week, many were surprised and upset.
"It's one of the most asinine things I ever heard in my life," said retired NYPD Lt. Commander Ed Day, 60, who lives in Rockland County.
"It's as though law enforcement feels we're more of a threat on some days and less on other days. It makes no sense."
Day said he almost always carries a weapon with him because, after working at countless grisly crime scenes, he has seen how dangerous the world can be.
"If, God forbid, something happened, I would like to have the ability to intercede," said Day, who retired in 2000 and responded to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, but not to 9/11. "I want to have a level chance of protecting my family."
Retired NYPD Lt. John Lincks, who also previously served in the U.S. Army and now lives in Florida, said he has earned the right to carry a weapon, and it is wrong for the NYPD to take that away.
"It is an insult to prohibit those of us who served from bearing arms when we are properly licensed to carry them," Lincks said.
Reardon, who wrote a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg detailing his experience, said he doesn't understand why the NYPD feels that retired or off-duty officers are a threat.
"If anything, you would think it might just be a good idea to have us around," Reardon said. "Most of us have not forgotten how to help."