LONG ISLAND — Dr. Gregory Fried was a young resident in the Bellevue Hospital emergency room on January 27, 1972, when he got word about two officers ambushed in the East Village.
One of them, Officer Gregory Foster, died at the scene on East 11th Street, by Avenue B.
His partner, Officer Rocco Laurie, was rushed to Bellevue.
"Laurie died in the operating room; he bled to death," Dr. Fried, now 71, recalled recently. "At that time, the Lower East Side was always in turmoil."
And cops were being picked off, often two at a time, by radical organizations like the Black Liberation Army and Weather Underground. Race didn't matter to the shooters. They killed black and white officers. The uniform was the target.
Fried was deeply troubled by the shootings — and felt empathy for many street cops.
"These were guys who were my age, who were doing an honest job, who were getting paid almost nothing," Fried observed. "I couldn't get into the head, 'Off the cops! Off the pigs.'"
That early 70s emergency stayed with Fried, who trained as a general surgeon but ultimately spent three decades working with the NYPD in his side job, one of the department's best known physicians. He worked his way up to the title of Executive Chief Surgeon with the Police Department.
And now, he's written a book about 30 years of "life and death" decisions — and his own survival, when the Twin Towers collapsed around him on September 11, 2001.
"It turned deadly quiet and black," Fried remembers of that time, just seconds after the south tower came down first.
Fried's book about his front-line experiences is called "Life on the Thin Blue Line: Tales of the NYPD Executive Chief Surgeon."
In it, Fried talks about his friendship with Detective Steven McDonald, who died this past January at the age of 59, after living more than 30 years in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. McDonald was shot in the spine in the summer of 1986 by a 15-year-old suspected bicycle thief. Fried said he stopped at Bellevue Hospital every day to check on McDonald and wanted to help McDonald start talking again.
He remembered McDonald got his throat blessed on a Catholic holiday called St. Blaise Day in March 1987, and that's when he approached him.
"I let down the balloon cup on his trach, and I turned the respirator volume up. Now, he was able to get air through his vocal chords and speak."
Fried recalled the single night in October 1988 when two police officers were killed, within three hours of each other, on the west side of Manhattan. In both cases, the cops — Christopher Hoban and Michael Buczek — had been targeted by drug gangs in two different neighborhoods.
There had been lots of talk about providing officers with larger caliber guns.
Fried said when he saw then-Mayor Ed Koch in the hospital, he had a message for him.
"I looked at him and I said, 'Mr. Mayor, they need bulletproof vests."
Fried recalled in his book that an executive order went out that night, calling for every police officer to eventually get a bulletproof vest. The vests were largely financed by the private sector, with support from businesspeople like Tommy Mottolla of SONY. This early effort to assist the officers eventually evolved into an organization called the Police Foundation.
When the vests arrived, Fried noted of the officers' general reaction, "It took them five or six years to get used to wearing them."
Fried wrote about the tense times in 1997, when Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was sodomized with a broomstick by a police officer, inside the bathroom of the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn.
Louima's colon and blader ruptured, and he needed surgery.
When City Hall got word that Louima was having additional surgery at another hospital, Dr. Fried said then Mayor Rudy Giuliani was concerned.
"And Giuliani said, 'Can you find out what they're doing and how serious it is?'"
"There was a fear if he died there would be race riots in the city."
Louima survived and eventually testified against the cop who was convicted of sodomizing him, Justin Volpe. Volpe was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Louima eventually reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the city.
Dr. Fried responded to the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001. He said he was attending to a fireman who was bleeding profusely on the ground.
"As I'm bending over, somebody yells 'The building's coming down!'"
Fried said he was buried in debris and everything went black "and I'm saying to myself, 'What good is a blind surgeon?'"
He finally saw a ray of light in the sky over the Hudson River.
Fried was eventually taken by boat to Jersey City, where he received blood transfusions.
Several years ago, "I had a massive bleed from my sinuses," Fried told PIX11. "When the jet fuel burned, it burned the back of my throat and my sinuses burned."
Fried was awarded the Medal of Valor by then Mayor Bloomberg in 2003.
He's now retired from his service in the NYPD.