LOWER MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- In a quiet moment at the 9/11 Memorial, Assistant Chief Norma Hardy reflected on friends lost as her career with the Port Authority Police Department came to an end.
"I've been very blessed that I can walk out and just retire, and hopefully all will be well with me," she said.
After 26 years of exemplary service, the highly-decorated officer shared her rise through the ranks.
"I was happy when I reached sergeant, and I kind of thought, 'OK, I reached sergeant, that's pretty good,'" she said. "But I was fortunate to have good mentors and my chiefs that believed in me."
Chief Hardy later became the first African-American woman to be promoted to inspector and the first woman promoted to Assistant Chief. These positions came with responsibilities she didn't take lightly.
"If I'm fortunate enough to have gotten where I am, then you have to bring people with you," she said. "So I try to bring people up with me."
After a stretch in the Army National Guard and work as an EMT, her first post with the Port Authority Police Department was at the World Trade Center.
Chief Hardy later patrolled PATH trains, adding she was "one of the few females that were assigned to the PATH Command."
The first real test of her skills as a rookie would come with the first terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center.
"1993 was my trial by fire," she said. "When I learned not only to be a good police officer, but also to be compassionate to people."
Then she was again called to duty after the second attack.
"This place is very dear to my heart," she said. "I did a lot of work with the 9/11 families, the Tribute Center and the 9/11 Museum."
She commanded 400 officers who patrolled Port Authority Bridges and Tunnels, and she has some advice for rookies.
"Be true to yourself, be honest, and always try to do the right thing," she said. "Because that's hard."
Chief Hardy also admitted that she will miss the job.
"I will continue to mentor as much as I can," she said. "I just love what I do. So I will miss it, yes."
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'Trial by fire': Retiring PAPD Assistant Chief Norma Hardy reflects on her life, career