This is a true hero....
Decorated Finest on anti-terror mission paralyzed, but he's still fighting
Saturday, August 2nd 2008, 11:26 PM
He pulled a slug out of his own stomach when he was shot in 1990, barely cheating death because his gunbelt had slowed the bullet's path.
Now he is showing that same staunch courage as he lies partially paralyzed after nearly drowning while on a foreign assignment with the Joint Terrorist Task Force.
"I'm leaving this job the same way I came on - on my own two feet," McGhee, 48, has vowed.
Details of the accident cannot be disclosed for security reasons, but McGhee actually drowned and was revived. He suffered water damage to his lungs and a spinal injury, shattering the C7 vertebra and dislocating the T1 vertebra.
Once an avid runner of marathons and a boxer who trained New York Athletic Club members, he cannot move his legs.
He has movement in his arms and fingers but will require months of rehabilitation to get back total use.
"The feeling above the chest will come back," said his wife, Lori. "Whatever God gives us with the rest, we'll overcome. He will figure out a way to be an inspiration to people."
After flying to his hospital bedside in Lisbon, Lori McGhee said she fashioned a "keyboard" out of cardboard, and her husband pointed to letters to spell out words and messages.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is one of the many visitors who streamed to his hospital room.
"If there's such a thing as a 'model officer,' he is that and much more," Kelly said. "The fight against terrorism took him overseas, where he has represented the NYPD in his usual outstanding manner. He is engaged now in a different kind of struggle for which he has our prayers and support always."
McGhee told Kelly - via his makeshift keyboard - that "it was an honor to work for the Police Department and the city."
"The first thing he says to anyone who visits is, 'How is your family?'" said Thomas Barrett, a retired sergeant who was McGhee's partner for years.
"He puts his game face on, but he knows he has a rough road ahead," said Barrett. "He wants to come back to work. If anyone can do it, he can."
McGhee was transferred last week to Mount Sinai Medical Center. He was happy to shed his hospital gown and put on shorts and a T-shirt to start therapy, his wife said.
And he was given a real keyboard.
McGhee has made some 40 trips overseas as part of the JTTF, which is made up of city detectives and FBI agents. He has been in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines as part of investigations since 9/11.
Before being assigned to the elite unit, he worked in Bronx Homicide, the street crime unit, the 23rd Precinct detective squad and the 32nd Precinct anti-crime unit.
"Terry was the best cop I have ever seen, and he will be in the New York City Marathon again one way or another," said retired NYPD Inspector Kevin Perham, who commanded the 32nd Precinct squad when McGhee worked there.
It was while he was at the 32nd Precinct in Harlem that McGhee was shot when he, Barrett and two other cops stopped a livery cab on W. 145th St. on Aug. 20, 1990.
One of the occupants fired a shot from a .22-caliber pistol, and it struck McGhee's gunbelt, which slowed it down before it penetrated his stomach.
"He tackled the guy who shot him, and we had four perps on the ground in handcuffs, and there he is, pulling the bullet out of his belly right on the street," Barrett recalled.
McGhee had been on the force just three years at the time, but he had already been awarded 28 citations.
He is the recipient of the Medal of Valor, one of the top NYPD awards for bravery, as well as three other prestigious medals and 116 citations and commendations.
McGhee and his wife Lori, 46, have four children and also raised his nephew and her three nieces.
"He loves his job," his wife said. "He wrestled with leaving homicide to go to the JTTF, but he is very patriotic and he wanted to help his country."