Tribal Tribune

October Staff Member of the Month: Larry Birsner

Larry+Birsner+conducts+identification+verification+at+the+front+gates.
Larry Birsner conducts identification verification at the front gates.

Larry Birsner conducts identification verification at the front gates.

Hana Donnelly

Hana Donnelly

Larry Birsner conducts identification verification at the front gates.

Audrey Kelly, Website Production Team

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There are people with stories everywhere. This is very true for Larry Birsner, Wando’s Staffer of the Month for October, who has done for his country something remarkable.

On Sept. 11th, 2001, Birsner was one of the first responders to the attack of the Twin Towers that day.

“I worked for the New York Police Department for 20 years. I was at home when it happened, [near Long Island] and ended up having to go in,” he said.

He worked on Ground Zero for three months on 18-hour shifts, leaving at home his six- month-old twins and wife. “It needed to be done. It had to.” He humbly adds, “It was bad, but I like to think I helped the best I can.”

In addition to being a policeman on duty, he also served as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown for 30 years.

“After 9/11, I was this close to packing up and retiring then, but I stayed,” Birsner said. “We didn’t even have protection, only paper masks that itched when you wore them.”

He also added that people are still dying from the event even today — from damage done from what they inhaled when the towers fell. “It’s horrible,” he said.

Getting away from the chaos is one of the main reasons his family decided to come to Charleston four years ago. Birsner worked for the Mount Pleasant Police Department for two years before starting his second year at Wando in 2018 as a student concern specialist.

“I mainly take care of the safety and security of the students and staff. If there is an issue with a student, we come in and talk with them,” he said. “If the teacher wants them removed for the class period, we call an Assistant Principal and they take care of the rest. I also work the gate among other security for the school to make sure everything is going how it’s supposed to be.”

Working in his hometown for so long gave him the sense of community he has with him today, and he plans on taking it with him wherever he goes.

“What I love most is interacting with the kids,” he said when talking about his job.

He especially does this with the special ed kids, with whom his own wife works with as a teacher’s assistant at Wando.

“I give them all fistbumps in the halls when I see them — I think they really enjoy that,” he said.

These kids actually played a huge part when he found out about being Teacher of the Month.

“My wife texted me to come down to her class after some miscommunications the first time they tried to tell me, and when I walked in, all the assistant principals and her students, along with my own who go here, surprised me with the news,” he said.

The most heartwarming part, though, was when one of the kids who has Down syndrome ran up to to him.

“He gave me a big hug and a card signed by the rest of the class,” Birsner said.

When he reflected on what his goal is by working here, he said, “If I can help a student in trouble and possibly keep them out of it, I’ve done my job. That’s what I love to do.”

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October Staff Member of the Month: Larry Birsner