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9/11 Heroes are CheerMADs too!

Leticia Lynn Madden

  • Retired Police officer at NYPD

  • Studied Journalism at Florida State University

  • From Bronx, New York

  • Married to Eddie Madden

  • Mom of four including daughter Hailey, who cheers on Sr. Level 4 at Star Athletics

One of the greatest joys I have in creating CheerMAD is meeting amazing cheer parents. Leticia Madden certainly qualifies as one of them.

I met Leticia through this blog a couple of years ago. I was so impressed with her advocacy of anti-bullying in her daughter's gym, when I established the CheerMAD Parents Panel, she was one of the first I asked to join. As I'd hoped, she became one of the most active on the committee.

Gradually I realized I had no idea the capacity of her convictions and personal strengths. I would learn just how special Leticia is.

Not only is she in remission from leukemia and struggles with lupus everyday, the mom of four is a retired New York City police officer who was on active duty on 9/11, seen in photo above with husband Eddie who was also a NYPD police officer on duty that day. Pictured is the couple after Eddie transferred to become a a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department after the FDNY lost 343 firefighters that day.

When I thanked her for her service, Leticia was humble as usual.

"We honestly did what we had to, she said.

"The things I’ve done and seen on (the) job is beyond. But the lives we’ve saved makes it all worth it," she continued.

"I did love my job and miss it everyday but am glad I get to be a full time CheerMAD now. I’ve learned to move through the pain and try and pass (that strength) on to my kids. So long as we breath we have life and a chance to make a difference in someone’s life. Being strong and positive is key. Giving up is not an option."

This morning, Leticia was again at Ground Zero with her husband, who played with the FDNY Pipes and Drums during today's memorial. Tonight she is at some point of the daily CheerMAD routine: driving-sitting-waiting-feeding-supporting-loving her All Star, which also includes a five hour choreography session.

"I'm OK, but as always super emotional (on the anniversary)," she said.

Here is Leticia's account of her experience while she and her husband were New York City Police officers on 9/11 (Photos provided by the Madden family, including first-person images).

On Sept 11th, 2001 I remember the beautiful sunny cool day that morning as I drove to my doctor's appointment. I was on maternity leave having had my now 17 year old daughter, Hailey, on July 23, 2001.

I was on my way to the doctor to clear me back to full duty as I was a New York City Police Officer. My husband was home with Hailey because he was also off this day. He too was a police officer at the time.

While sitting in the doctors office and watching the television, I hear breaking news “a small plane had just hit one of the twin towers in NYC. As I continued to watch, I saw when the second plane hit.

I lived in the Bronx then and called my husband right away, I told him “look out of the bedroom window the towers are on fire. We are under attack.”

I left my appointment without seeing the doctor and raced home.

On the radio I heard “all off-duty first responders please report to your command” repeated over and over and over. I pulled up to my house and my husband was dressed and running out to New York City.

I hugged Eddie and cried as he told me to watch our kids. I then got my mother-in-law to come watch them and also ran to my command. My supervisor said if I wasn’t cleared by my doctor I wouldn’t be allowed to head to the city to help. So, while everyone was running out to help, I had to sit and answer phones.

We have a lot of friends on the police and fire departments and as I sat there, from a nearby open window, I watched the first tower fall. Across the water, I could see the smoke cover the air. I knew then and there that we had just lost a lot of first responders.

For hours I didn’t hear from my husband. There was no cell service but I would later find out he was with others digging through the rubble hoping for any sign of life, something they'd spend another month doing.

Finally hearing from my husband, I'll never forget the sound of his voice telling me how horrible it was as we cried.

From there on we all worked on what was then called "the pile" and would forever be referred to as Ground Zero.

The smell still haunts us.

I must say, nothing ever prepares us for something like this. Soon after the attack, my husband transferred over to the FDNY and is now a firemen.

That day we lost many first responders, who were friends. Thousands of lives were lost and still today we continue to deal with terror.

I still have nightmares, but I thank God to be blessed with a beautiful family and keep very busy with soccer, music and, yes, Cheer. It helps me focus on good things until the anniversary comes around and memories of Sept 11th come rolling back.

I pray no one ever has to see the things we did or feel what we still feel today. God bless our Military, first responders and God bless the United States of America.

Pictured right: Leticia working detail at the first game in Yankee Stadium after the attack, indicating "USA is number one."

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