By Lenis Rodrigues and Steve Coleman, Media Relations Staff
No one would ever liken the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln and Holland tunnels and now the World Trade Center Transportation Hub to a New York City hospital maternity ward. Yet, these iconic Port Authority transportation facilities continue to be the settings where expectant moms bring new life into the world.
Such was the case last Wednesday when Mariam Suleman of East Orange, NJ gave birth on the floor of the Hub’s Oculus to a beautiful baby girl with the aid of Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) officers. Next Thursday, the officers who helped deliver the baby – Brian McGraw and Matthew Binkowitz – will be honored for their actions by the Port Authority Board of Commissioners at its monthly meeting.
What’s even more poetic about this whole episode is that the baby was born in a public space designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to symbolize rebirth and new life after the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center site.
The incident unfolded at approximately 11 p.m. when Ms. Suleman and the baby’s father, Suraji Agbere, were heading to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan via the PATH train. Upon their arrival at the Transportation Hub, Ms. Suleman told her husband she could no longer walk and he proceeded to look for help.
PAPD Officer Matthew Binkowitz was on routine patrol on the ground level of the Oculus when Mr. Agbere approached him and stated, “My wife is going into labor.” Immediately, Binkowitz radioed for additional police personnel and EMS to respond. He was quickly joined by PAPD Officer Brian McGraw, a trained EMT, and PAPD Sgt. Aaron Woody.
The officers held up blue canvas tarps to create some privacy for the mother and within 10 minutes, the baby was born. Ms. Suleman and her newborn were taken to Lenox Hill Hospital, where the baby girl was named Naheeda, which means beautiful in Arabic.
Officer Binkowitz recalled, “I knew this baby was coming quick because of the mother’s breathing. This was an incredible experience and it was a perfect delivery.”
“Child birth is one of the greatest things in this world and it was incredible to help the parents bring the baby girl into this world,” said Officer McGraw. He was the first one to hold Naheeda and he even cut the umbilical cord.
Afterwards, at the hospital, Suleman chuckled about the whole experience and recalled that with the birth of her other two children, the birthing process didn’t happen as quickly.
“The Oculus is so beautiful and to have my baby born in a place like that is a memory I’ll never forget,” said Suleman. “We are very thankful for the police officers. They were very kind and amazing and God bless them.”
“I would like to extend my gratitude to them and I was very surprised that they knew what to do. I thought they were doctors,” said the dad, Suraji Agbere. “It is wonderful to have both of my girls healthy and safe.”
This isn’t the first time the duo helped deliver a baby while working at the Port Authority. In August 2015, they both worked to help deliver a healthy baby girl in the World Trade Center PATH station.
Port Authority officers also have been called upon to become impromptu midwives at the George Washington Bridge in 2014, the Lincoln Tunnel in 2011 and 2015 and the Holland Tunnel in 2012 and 2013.
The Port Authority doesn’t promote the use of its facilities as alternatives to a normal hospital setting. But if and when the need arises, Officers McGraw, Officer Binkowitz and the rest of the Port Authority team are trained to handle it.