Remembering Supervisory FBI Police Officer Yiu Tak 'Louis' Tao
Remarks prepared for delivery.
Good morning. On behalf of all the men and women of the FBI, it’s an honor to be here today to remember Lou and honor his life.
For those of you who may not know, Lou joined the Bureau in 1996, first entering on duty with the New York Field Office as a file clerk before joining the ranks of the FBI Police the next year.
But it didn’t take him long to move up, first achieving a promotion to sergeant and, a few years later, to lieutenant. And while Lou was proud to have provided FBI police services across the country when duty called—for example, at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City or during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri—his heart was always in New York.
On the morning of 9/11, Lou was sitting at his desk at 26 Fed when he got a phone call saying a plane had hit the World Trade Center. He didn’t ask questions, he didn’t ask for details, and he never stopped to think about his own danger.
Rather, instinctively, he simply rushed to the elevator, made it down to the lobby, and ran as fast as he could toward the Twin Towers and the people he knew needed his help.
When he arrived, Lou saw smoke pouring from the building and immediately began evacuating people from the area. Most of them seemed dazed, he said later, and he knew they needed someone like him, a trained first responder, to shepherd them to safety.
But then the second plane hit, and when Lou looked up, all he could see was a fireball. He tried to take cover as debris rained down—metal, pipes, jet fuel.
He described it later as something like a war zone. And as the first tower began to tilt, and then fell, he continued to work to get as many people as he could to safety.
Some of the people in this room undoubtedly know exactly how Lou felt that clear September morning—the fear, the disbelief, and the sense of duty to protect their fellow citizens, even without knowing exactly what they needed to be protected from. But most of us can barely imagine.
The uniform Lou wore that day—torn and tattered, spattered with blood and jet fuel—now hangs in the FBI Police office at our Headquarters building in Washington.
It serves as a constant reminder of one of our nation’s darkest days and, more importantly, of the courage of first responders, who choose to rush in and towards danger when others rush out. Because, as Lou would say, that’s just the nature of those who have taken an oath to serve and protect others. And Lou took that oath to heart.
So many innocent lives were lost on 9/11—people going into work, people meeting clients or eating breakfast, and scores of first responders.
And now, with each year that passes, we lose more of the brave men and women who instinctively ran toward the danger that day, including many—too many—members of our FBI Family.
People like Lou.
I had the privilege of speaking with him a little more than a year ago. He’d been sick for several years by then, but despite all that he’d been through, I remember being struck by his spirit, by the genuine enthusiasm, love, and dedication Lou had for the FBI that I could feel, even over the phone.
I asked Lou about himself, his career, his time in the FBI. But as will come as no shock to any of you who knew him, Lou didn’t really want to talk about himself. He wanted to tell me about everyone else—the outpouring of support he and his family had received following the resurgence of his cancer, how absolutely wonderful everyone else had been.
As I never tire of telling people, it takes an incredibly special person to do this work—to put his or her life on the line for total strangers, day after day. And Lou was just that kind of incredibly special person.
But Lou was so much more than just his career.
In talking to the people who knew him well, the same words keep coming up over and over again. Kind. Respected. Trustworthy. Fair. Loving. Smart. Funny. Dedicated. Loyal.
Lou was an immigrant who’d come here from Hong Kong at a young age in search of a better life. And I think it’s safe to safe—he certainly would—that he found one.
Lou was a devoted husband whose years of friendship with a coworker named Jessica blossomed into love and the friendly banter and laughter that became the hallmark of their relationship.
I’m told they wanted to get married a year-and-a-half ago, but the pandemic threw a wrench into their plans. So rather than postpone the ceremony, they held it on the boardwalk at Coney Island on a very, very cold November day.
It was originally supposed to be a small gathering—only 20 people or so. But Lou and Jessica were so beloved that the crowd swelled, and their dear friend and coworker Kelly, who officiated the ceremony, had to use a bullhorn just so all the guests could hear.
Lou was also a loving and loyal friend, and after 25 years in the New York Field Office, he’d grown close to many of his colleagues. So close that one of his best friends, Heriberto, who’d started out as one of Lou’s employees 18 years ago, referred to him as his brother.
Those friends remained steadfast until the end, bringing Lou’s favorite foods to his hospital bed and, even after his passing, keeping vigil these past few days and nights to honor him.
And I’d be remiss not to also mention and thank the Sisters of Life, who have lent extraordinary support to our New York Field Office this week, as well as Monsignor Geno Sylva for his part in the Mass and for serving as an FBI chaplain for 13 years. Thank you for your support to this family, to this office, and to all of the men and women of the FBI.
Finally, I cannot close without mentioning that Lou was a man of deep faith who’d been baptized in adulthood.
In Isaiah, chapter six, verse eight, the Lord calls for someone to serve him. And Isaiah raises his hand and says, “Here I am. Send me.”
Here I am. Send me.
God was issuing Isaiah a call to service. A test. An act of faith.
Lou had faith. He had faith in the better life he’d find in the United States. He had faith in Jessica and her daughter, Jesslyn; in his sisters, Sandy and Mimi; in their husbands, Jason and Michael; in his niece, Pegeen, and his nephew, Milo; and in his stepmom, Lan. He had faith in the FBI. And he had faith in the work he was called to do: to serve and protect.
When Lou was called, he raised his hand, before God and before his country, and he said, “Here I am. Send me.”
At Headquarters and in every field office across the country, there’s a Wall of Honor where the names of fallen FBI employees are inscribed.
Each May we hold a ceremony to honor those whose names are on it. Last week we added two more to the wall. In time, we’ll add Lou’s name, as well.
Each one represents the kind of extraordinary people we have in the FBI—people who answer the call of duty, no matter the cost. People who always think of others before themselves.
We owe them a debt of gratitude we can never repay. But we can and will make sure that every future generation of our FBI Family reflects on Lou’s commitment, and the commitment of the other brave men and women who came before them.
Today, we say goodbye to a beloved member of the FBI Family gone too soon. But we’ll remember him, and the way he touched and changed so many lives, even those he didn’t know, for the better.
Jessica, Sandy, and Mimi, we know you’ll remember him better than anyone, as a devoted husband, brother, and family man. And we want to thank you for sharing Lou with us for so many years.
Please know that Lou, and all of you, will always be a part of our FBI Family.