By Kevin Canessa
Christmas 2005 was different than others from the get-go.
For starters, it wasn’t all that cold that day — and night — and a distinct, annoying fog set over much of the tristate area. I spent much of that day at the home of my aunt and uncle, Annie and Bob Troy, in Middletown, just outside Red Bank. Once things started to wind down, I got into my car and headed home.
It wasn’t an easy journey by any means, and I recall, several times, thinking I may have made a mistake leaving Middletown — the fog was as bad as I could remember — and the journey up the Garden State Parkway was nerve-wracking.
Though visibility was brutal, I got home safely.
I can’t remember the exact time, but it was much later on in the evening. My phone rang and it was my aunt Annie. “Bobby had to go up to work — there was an accident with two of his officers at the Kearny-Jersey City border,” she said.
At the time, my uncle, the aforementioned Bob Troy, was Chief of the Jersey City Police Department. It would be hours before we all learned that accident was, indeed, the untimely death of Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen — both of whom had served in the JCPD’s Emergency Services Unit.
The two men had been dispatched, that night, to the then Hackensack River Bridge which, in 2007, was renamed in their memories. Flares were needed because the bridge’s security arm — the wooden piece of the bridge that stops drivers when the bridge is raised — wasn’t lowering.
Carson and Nguyen drove their JCPD ESU vehicle across the bridge, to the Kearny side of it, where the arm was malfunctioning. From what I recall, the two delivered the flares, chatted with other officers who were on the scene and then got back into their vehicle.
What they didn’t know was that in the time in-between crossing the bridge into Kearny and their chat with the other cops, the bridge had been raised, presumably to allow a boat to pass through.
Once in their vehicle, unaware the drawbridge was up — and blinded by the heavy fog of the evening — they drove themselves to their horrific death … plunging into the Hackensack River.
In an instant, two men who were part of the JCPD’s most elite unit were gone. In seconds, they went from one of their simplest assignments to their deaths.
Christmas cheer was gone. For many, it would never again be the same.
From the stories my uncle once told me, I recall that there were some officers at the scene before it all unfolded who detected Carson and Nguyen driving toward the open bridge. They ran after them. They screamed for them to stop. But Carson and Nguyen never heard the screams or saw the pleas for them to stop.
They were doomed.
For my uncle, it was the greatest test of his leadership. Carson and Nguyen’s families would turn to him for leadership, for comfort, for answers. The city would turn to him. It had to be the most trying time of his 25-year police career.
A dozen years later, it hit me that I had completely forgotten about Shawn and Robert over the last few Christmases. Even having driven across that bridge several times in 2017, it didn’t hit me, even then, it was their bridge.
Too quickly, we forget our true heroes once they’re gone.
But just a few days past Christmas, I thank you for allowing me to share this story with you, because Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen were just that — heroes. They gave their lives in service, that day, not just to the people of Jersey City, but also to the people of our town, Kearny.
And their ultimate sacrifice must never, ever, be forgotten.
Odds & ends
• Wasn’t it just 1999 going into 2000? Weren’t we all just stressing over whether our computers and our AOL dial-up connections to the Internet would function properly when we entered what everyone, then, called Y2K? And how is it that it’s now 2018? Man it stinks getting old(er.)
• If you, like me, are a fan of “Good Day New York,” may I ask … do you miss Greg Kelly as much as I do? Lori Stokes, his replacement, seems a nice enough a lady — but she has absolutely no chemistry with Rosanna Scotto — months after taking over for Kelly — and she laughs at everything, even things that are inappropriate and not meant to be laughed at.
Almost every morning, my mom, friend Kristen and I exchange texts about wacky things she does. All the while, Fox 5 has Sukanya Krishnan hosting from 4:30 to 7 a.m. Suki has incredible chemistry with Scotto. Heck, Krishnan has chemistry with whomever she works. Am I right here?
It’s a pipe dream to hope Kelly will return — but please, someone at Fox 5 — admit the mistake. Get Krishnan on from 7 to 10 a.m.
That’s all for now. As we journey into 2018, I wish each and every one of you the very best in the new year. Whether 2017 was a good or bad year, I truly hope this new year brings everything you want and need. Thank you, one and all, for taking the time to read this column once every three weeks.