Daughter of policeman killed at 9/11 finds a passion for criminal justice at Texas State
Priscilla Davis, by her own admission, isn’t someone you would expect to have a tattoo.
She’s a criminal justice major. A member of a sorority at Texas State. A potential law school student. One of her professors describes her as “thoughtful” and “measured in her comments” in class.
“I don’t look like the kind of person to have a tattoo on my arm or anything,” she says with a shrug. But there it is, prominent on her right forearm: The twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center, sun beaming between them, showering rays in multiple directions. Below them, a badge: Port Authority police, No. 1719.
It’s a memorial.
Ten years ago, Clinton Davis Sr. raced into the north tower of the World Trade Center, searching for people to evacuate. He already had led dozens out of the doomed skyscraper. In a hurried phone call to the Port Authority, his wife in Austin had been assured that he was all right.
It took 12 days for rescuers to find his body. Davis’ father was one of 37 Port Authority of New York & New Jersey policemen killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“On one hand, I’m angry,” she says of losing her father when she was just 12 years old. “But then on another hand, I’m sad for anybody else who had to go through it.
“I got the tattoo because I’m proud. My dad, he died a hero. A lot of people can’t say that.”
Making a choice
Ten years after the events of September 2001, Priscilla Davis is a senior at Texas State. Priscilla says her father — who did not attend college — was determined that his children become college graduates, and Texas State was the university she always aspired to attend. She started her college career at Lamar University in Beaumont, but kept her sights focused on transferring to Texas State as soon as she had the necessary credits.
“I just liked Texas State and the campus, everything about it,” she says. “Once I graduated from high school, I knew I had to do everything in my power to get here. And once I got here, I stayed.”
She came to San Marcos to major in mathematics. But then she signed up for a criminal justice class as an elective.
“When I got into college, I never thought I was going to be a police officer,” she says. “That was just one thing I was sure of — until I got into that class. And then I really got into it.”
She credits several of her professors in criminal justice, including Dr. David Perkins, Tomas Mijares and Robert Hernandez, with sparking her interest in following the footsteps of her father.
“I’m like my dad in a lot of ways,” she says.
Keeping him in mind
Clinton Davis was a native of New York City, but he didn’t want his children growing up there. So his wife Daphne and two of their three children, Priscilla and Clinton Jr., lived in Austin, near Daphne’s family. They all got together on holidays and during the summer; in the interim, Davis and his wife ran up phone bills in the hundreds of dollars.
“I never lived full-time in a household with my dad,” Priscilla Davis says. “Still, there are a lot days when I get up and it’s like ‘My dad’s really not coming back.’ Even 10 years later, I still think about it. My dad’s not coming back.”
In 2001, her father was 38 and had four years left until he could retire from the Port Authority and rejoin the family.
“When it happened, I was in the sixth grade,” she says. “I saw it on TV, and I asked ‘Is this a movie?’ And the teacher says ‘No, this is going on right now.’”
Davis was on the phone to her mother almost immediately, and they quickly went to New York. It took 12 days for rescuers to find her father’s body in a staircase of the north tower, next to the body of his best friend on the Port Authority police force. More than 800 people attended his funeral; Clinton Jr. spoke at the service. Priscilla’s other brother, Julian, read a portion of the Declaration of Independence at Ground Zero in 2004, and the street where Clinton Davis Sr. grew up in New York has been named for him.
Priscilla’s memorial for her father was — and is — much quieter, befitting her personality. She’ll talk about 9/11 if asked. The tattoo speaks for itself.
“It’s kind of big, I guess,” she says. “A lot of people ask me about it. I don’t look like someone who would have a tattoo. I say ‘I know, but I got it and that’s that.’”