WEEHAWKEN, N.J. -- Assistant Chief Norma Hardy attended her last roll call for officers on duty at the Lincoln Tunnel on Monday.
Hardy joined the force in 1993, just weeks before the World Trade Center bombing. She was underground when the blast rocked the building, but she led people out and went onto rise to the rank of inspector in 2011 and assistant chief in 2013. She will now retire.
"I’m the same way I was when I came on the job, same way I’m leaving the job," said Hardy, who stressed the importance of treating everyone the same, no matter their rank.
Hardy apparently left a lasting impression on many of the younger officers who sought her out as a mentor. Some of them were in tears as she said her goodbyes.
"She’s gonna be leaving a huge hole when she goes," said Susan Salvador, who graduated from the police academy with Hardy in 1993. "She’s very compassionate with people."
Hardy was well-liked by many 9/11 families, who wrote to her superiors requesting that she stay at Ground Zero when word got out she was to be re-assigned to a different post.
She served for many years at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where she was apart of an all-female team of plainclothes officers who were tasked with making arrests.
"We were just called everything," her former partner retired Detective Sgt. Susan Kean said. "Ebony and ivory. We were called frick and frack. We were just called everything."
But Hardy said that it was during this time at the terminal that she was able to prove herself to the male officers. Hardy beat her fellow officers in a foot-chase to tackle a suspect with a gun.
"After that, I had everyone’s attention as to what kind of officer I could be," she said.
As for what's next, Hardy said she wants to mentor children in inner cities to show them they can achieve whatever they dream. She's also thought about writing a children's book.
"She achieved great milestones, not only as a police officer, but as an African-American woman there were a lot of firsts," Superintendent of Port Authority Police Edward Centar said.