Remembering School Safety Agent Orville Williams

By Ed Wendell
Orville Williams was only 25 years old, not much older than the students that passed by him in the hall every day. He had been working as a school safety officer for just over 2 years at Franklin K. Lane and was well-liked and respected by everyone who knew him.
“He was a big man with a big heart. He treated kids fairly and encouraged them to do their best in school,” is how one assistant principal described him.
It was shortly before 3 pm and the hallways were full of students looking forward to the end of the day. They were joking and laughing and there was probably some pushing around and shouting, as kids tend to do.
A small skirmish broke out between two teenage girls, which Safety Agent Williams responded to and diffused, something he had done numerous times since he started the job in 1997.
Once that situation was quelled, Williams ran to help stop another fight, this one between two groups of students in the schoolyard. As Williams ran down a stairwell towards the exit, he suddenly clutched his chest and collapsed.
He was rushed to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Of Agent Williams, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani said “He died trying to protect the children of our schools. His death is even more tragic because he was young himself and he had so much more to give to his family and his city.”
Nearly twenty-five years have passed since that awful day at Franklin K. Lane but School Safety Agent Orville M. Williams has not been forgotten and will be honored this coming Saturday at 1 p.m. when the corner of Dexter Court and 85th Drive will be co-named in his memory.
The street co-naming is part of an ongoing effort by the Newtown Historical Society and its President Christina Wilkinson to honor the memory of fallen police officers around Queens. A few weeks ago, we saw Officer Arthur Kenney (who was killed in the line of duty in 1926) honored by having the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue co-named in his honor.
And later this year, Sergeant Thomas Francis O’Grady will be remembered when Eldert Lane and 87th Avenue will be co-named in his honor. O’Grady was seriously injured in August 1916 when responding to reports of a stabbing at Dexter Park. His horse slipped on the cobblestones; O’Grady was thrown from his horse which then fell on top of him. He died 5 days later from his injuries.
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society was happy to support this effort by the Newtown Historical Society, who also enlisted the support of Councilwoman Joann Ariola, Councilman Robert Holden and Community Board 9, led by Chairperson Sherry Algredo.
Together, the street co-namings will shine a light on three sad moments in our community’s history. And they also provide some comfort to the families these officers left behind, letting them know that we have not forgotten their loss.
But I believe that these efforts have another effect, which is to acknowledge the risks that every current member of the NYPD takes every time they put on that uniform and go to work. Every day they leave for work they know there is always the possibility that the unthinkable could happen, and they might not return home at the end of their shift.
And yet, they push aside those fears and get dressed and head to work, serving and protecting the people of New York City. Every single day.
And in an era when some people do not feel the same way (sadly, this includes some elected officials around the city), these street co-namings serve several purposes.
First, to honor those officers who lost their lives while on the job. And also to show every officer currently serving that we understand the risks that they face, and the fears that they must quell to do their jobs. And we appreciate them for taking on such a difficult job.
We hope you will join us 1 p.m. this Saturday at Dexter Court and 85th Drive to honor the memory of School Safety Agent Orville Williams, gone nearly 25 years, but never forgotten.

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