FBI Director Christopher Wray was among the mourners who said a heartfelt goodbye Friday morning to Special Agent in Charge David J. LeValley.
LeValley, who helmed the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office after serving in other FBI roles over the years, died May 26 at 53. His passing is considered a line of duty death as a direct result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Contaminants he came into contact with at the New York City attack site led to a leukemia diagnosis in 2010.
“The very thing that made him sick, the very thing that took his life was his greatest achievement,” said his colleague Murang Pak, who is assistant special agent in charge at the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office. “That was my boss. That was our friend.”
Hundreds of relatives, friends and law enforcement officers representing numerous departments attended the service at Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Johns Creek. A bagpiper led the procession of family and a military guard escorting his flag-draped coffin into the sanctuary. The service concluded with a three-gun salute and presentation of the flag, folded with precision by honor guard members, to LeValley’s widow, Denise LeValley. He will be buried at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia.
A New Jersey native, LeValley served in the United States Marine Corps and with the Harrisburg, Penn. police department before beginning his FBI career in 1996, assigned to the New York Division.
“On the morning of 9/11 Dave was driving to work, about four blocks away from the World Trade Center when the first plane hit,” Wray said. “He put on his helmet and his bulletproof vest and went to see how he could help. When the first tower collapsed Dave ducked into the archway of a building. He later said he thought to himself at that moment, ‘This is how I’m going to go. This is how I’ll meet my maker.’ He also said he wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t afraid because he was a man of faith. In the days and weeks following the attacks Dave kept that faith, just as he kept his faith in the rule of law, in justice and in doing what was right.”
Here’s an audio clip of Wray’s remarks:
“Most people can’t imagine what those first responders lived through. What they saw, what they endured, how they felt. We’re only now beginning to understand the long term impact of that work on all of our first responders.”
The Sept. 11 attacks killed more law enforcement officers in the line of duty than any other single incident in American history, according to the non-profit organization Officer Down. In addition to the officers killed at the New York and Pennsylvania attack sites, “dozens more have passed away in the years following 2001 as the direct result of illnesses contracted while working in the hazardous conditions immediately following the attacks in New York,” the group says.
A 2016 Newsweek report titled “9/11’s Second Wave” noted that the “World Trade Center Health Program, which the federal government created in the aftermath of the attacks, have linked nearly 70 types of cancer to Ground Zero.”
Last year, a Long Island beach town dedicated a memorial park to the memory of 9/11 victims. The park includes a twisted piece of steel from one of the towers and plaques with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died that day and a separate plaque listing 582 police officers, firefighters, construction workers and volunteers who spent time at the site and later died of illness stemming from contact with contaminants.
The second plaque left room for more names to be added.
Few besides LeValley’s closest friends and relatives knew he was ill as he preferred to talk about others rather than about himself, Wray said.
“Though our hearts ache this morning we trust that Dave awaits us in a better place,” Wray said. “It might be that God needed a good man for a tough job and Dave raised his hand once again and said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’”
Wray shared reflections from LeValley’s colleagues, including a moment of levity among the chaos surrounding Ground Zero in those terrible days. One day while on foot patrol LeValley and his partner heard an unusual racket and followed the source of the noise to an abandoned bar, Wray said. Upon investigating they found a group of cops and first responders who were “liberating” the contents of the bar.
“Without missing a beat Dave walked right up to the counter and said, ‘two Budweisers, please.’ He became one of the guys. knowing Dave, he probably left a $20 behind to cover his tab.”
LeValley, who had served as the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office since November 2016, is survived by his wife, Denise, daughter Krista and her husband Mike Stracka, sons Nathan and Justin LeValley and siblings John LeValley, Sharon Light and Paul LeValley.
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