“There has been an accident. Some planes hit the really big buildings in the city. We don’t know if he’s coming home.”
Brittney Roy was 7 years old when two airplanes hit the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Although Roy eventually followed in her father’s footsteps of a career in law enforcement, her life was forever impacted by that day. However, her memories of the event and the weeks that followed are hazy.
“There was a lot of chaos,” she said in a recent interview with Coffee or Die. “I think I mentally blocked it out.”
Roy grew up in Long Island, New York, with her mother, father, sister, and brother. Her father, Timothy Roy, was a police officer with the New York Police Department. He often worked long shifts but was always home for dinner to share “raccoon stories.”
Roy and her siblings requested these “raccoon stories” with a simple question — “So, how was your day?”
“He was leaving for work and saw a giant raccoon. My dad had to wrestle him to get to the garbage.” Her dad would tell the story bit by bit and pause — “now take two more bites,” he would say, to get them to eat their dinner.
Sergeant Timothy Roy was on his way to traffic court when he saw the first plane crash into the World Trade Center. He called his wife to tell her he would not be home that evening.
“My mom didn’t tell us anything for a while after it happened,” Brittney said. “Communication in the city was out — there was a blackout. My mom didn’t know where my dad was, but we couldn’t put two and two together.”
Brittney’s mom wanted to protect her children. She spoke to teachers and told them not to mention the events. Two weeks after 9/11, she sat the kids down.
“I remember this day and what I said very vividly,” Roy said. “‘I’m too young for my daddy to die.’”
The months following the event were difficult, and she didn’t fully process it at once.
“We were living in a fish bowl,” she said. The other moms would make comments to Roy’s mother about the way she was handling everything.
“I was still a kid, running around, being happy at school,” Roy said. “The other moms would tell my mom that I wasn’t grieving properly.” Although her dad hadn’t come home, she still had hope.
“I thought maybe he would come home, so I would wait by the window every night,” Roy said. “He could have been stuck in an air pocket somewhere.”
After awhile, she stopped being a bubbly and happy kid. Then the moms said, “She’s sinking into a hole, she needs help.” Roy started going to a therapist. She looked forward to it as it was an excuse to play with dolls.
Her father’s body was found 13 months after Sept. 11, 2001.
Roy comes from a family of law enforcement officers and firemen. Despite this, her first career aspiration was to be a pastry chef.
Roy’s mom worked multiple side jobs for extra money, one of which was decorating cakes for people in the neighborhood. She fell in love with the craft; for many years, her birthday gifts were cooking classes.
While she considered becoming a police officer, her mom suggested that she do something that interests her since a specific degree is required to be a police officer. Roy’s neighbor was a head chef, so her mother sent her to him for guidance.
The neighbor, Anthony, gave her the ins and outs of being a pastry chef, and ultimately told her that it is a very tough job. “If you want a family, it’s going to be very demanding,” Roy recalled Anthony telling her. “You’ll work weekends and holidays. If you want a family, maybe you should leave it as a hobby.”
In 2014, while attending the University of Rhode Island for forensics and, later, communications, Roy decided to take the test for the NYPD. She completed her oral board and psychological test, and she was sworn into the NYPD in 2016.
The NYPD is a military-style police academy. “You always have to carry your bag in your left hand, and your uniform must always be on point,” Roy said. “It was crazy and a cool feeling each day you get closer to graduation.”
Roy was in the top 10 percent for both physical fitness and range qualifications. Despite her own efforts toward success, most of her accomplishments were embellished with 9/11 as the focal point.
When Roy graduated from the academy, six or seven photographers unexpectedly ran into the room to take pictures. The headlines read, “Daughter of Slain 9/11 hero …”
“Everything I did was tied back to 9/11,” Roy said. “It was a little frustrating. I signed up for South Queens, the busiest area, not to take my past into it but to make a difference.”
In Roy’s first week on the NYPD, she did just that. She made three arrests, one being a gun arrest after a man threatened a girl in a park.
“So being a pastry chef was too stressful, and here I am now, a cop,” she often jokes with her mother.
Roy began to feel congested living in the city. Although there was a lot of pride in being a part of the NYPD, the pay wasn’t great and the job was stressful. She began looking for other police departments and decided on Seattle.
“Seattle had the best conditions, salary, and benefits,” Roy said. In April 2018, she took the written exam, and a couple of months later she arrived in the Pacific Northwest to continue her legacy.
Officer Brittney Roy is assigned to the North Precinct in Seattle. “I want to make my own difference,” she said. “I didn’t do it because of my past but because I can do the job and I put in the work.”
Katie Whelan is a contributing writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Thomas Edison State University and is an active duty U.S. Army staff sergeant, assigned to 1st Special Forces Group. Katie also plays center and defensive end for the Seattle Mist (LFL) football team and is a two-time national champion. She is a Minnesota native but currently resides in Washington state with her daughter.
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