Special dog unites 9/11 victim’s family, TSA agent

By Theresa Juva-Brown Lohud.com

TSA agent David Wills and his explosive-sniffing dog Riverso attend the annual Joe Riverso memorial at Stepinac High School. Photo Carucha L. Meuse, The Journal News

TSA agent David Wills and his explosive-sniffing dog Riverso attend the annual Joe Riverso memorial at Stepinac High School. Photo Carucha L. Meuse, The Journal News

Saturday was a special day for the family and friends of Joseph Riverso, who died on September 11, 2001.

Not only did they remember Riverso during a memorial football game at Stepinac High School, they met the Transportation Security Administration canine, “Riverso,” named in his honor and the dog’s caretaker, TSA agent David Wills. The yellow Labrador retriever is trained to detect to explosive material and was part of a TSA program to name its special canines after 9/11 victims. Joseph Riverso, 34, worked as bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center.

Maria Riverso, Joseph Riverso’s sister, called Wills an “extraordinary individual” for driving from Indiana to White Plains last weekend to finally meet them after first reaching out two years ago.

“We all felt meeting Dave was like meeting up with an old friend,” she told The Journal News.

After the game, Wills joined the family and friends for dinner at the White Plains home of Teresa Riverso, Joseph’s mother. They enjoyed a pasta meal, including the dog, who tried his first piece of rigatoni, Maria Riverso said.

“Riverso is a beautiful dog – the most gentle one I’ve ever seen,” she said in an email, adding that her mother, who is allergic to dogs, especially adored him and had no allergic reaction.

Joseph R. Riverso

Joseph R. Riverso

“Riverso also seemed very comfortable in the house – almost like he’d been there before — and with all of us, especially my mom,” she said. “Here’s where you’ve got to believe there are higher powers at work.”

Wills, who drove back to Indianapolis on Sunday, told The Journal News last week he had wanted to meet the family since he was assigned “Riverso” in 2011 and researched his name.

“I felt there was a void there because we hadn’t met the family yet,” Wills said Friday. “There is a bond there that will be completed.”

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