Daniel Oates, chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department in 2001, charged out of a meeting with Ann Arbor City Council members on the morning of 9/11 wishing he was alongside his New York Police Department colleagues who were heading for the World Trade Center, where a second plane had just toppled the south tower.
Just three weeks earlier, Oates had accepted the position with the AAPD, ending a 21-year career with the NYPD in which he served as the Commanding Officer of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division.
On 9/11, as Oates’s former colleagues from the Patrol Borough Brooklyn South rushed to downtown Manhattan, he scrambled to evacuate Ann Arbor City Hall and identify and guard potential terrorist targets in the local water supply and infrastructure.
In a recent interview, Oates — who has been the chief of police for the city of Aurora, Colo. since November 2005 — described that morning as “chaotic.”
“I had, seemingly to me at the time, everyone turning to me and asking, ‘What do we do?’ ” Oates said, adding that the 36 hours following the attacks were “unlike anything we had experienced.”
That night, Oates and Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje met with local Muslim community leaders to plan an event for the following day to decry the backlash against Ann Arbor’s Muslim community. Oates said the event was “the primary reason why we had no subsequent or significant events of backlash against our Muslim citizens in Ann Arbor in the days and months afterward.”
Oates later contacted his former command in New York to ask about the status of two of his police friends who responded to calls at the World Trade Center and were missing. They were finally located two days later.
Though his two friends survived, Oates knew nine of the 23 NYPD officers who died on 9/11. He admitted it was difficult to be away from New York in the days and months after the terrorist attacks.
“For me personally, it was really hard because by the time the towers went down, I knew to a certainty that people I knew had died,” Oates said. “And of course that turned out to be absolutely true.”