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Vandals cut down flagpole at 9/11 memorial in NY village

The memorial honors five Washingtonville firefighters who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center


Chris McKenna
The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.

WASHINGTONVILLE, N.Y. — Village police are asking the public for help in finding the vandals who cut down a flagpole at the center of a 9/11 memorial that honors five firefighters from the area who died in the World Trade Center collapse.

The severed pole was discovered and reported early Wednesday morning. Washingtonville Police Chief Brian Zaccaro said the culprits used a tool to cut through the composite material at about four to five feet from the base, and scrawled a message in marker on the part of the pole that remained standing.

He didn’t want to disclose the message while the investigation was getting started.

Police suspect the same vandals also pushed over and damaged the sign for St. Mary’s Parish Center, about a half mile away. An eagle figure that had been removed from the top of the cut-down flagpole was left next to the toppled church sign.

The memorial includes a semi-circle of black granite monuments bearing the names of five local victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks, all members of the New York City Fire Department: firefighters Mark Whitford, Bobby Hamilton and Gerry Nevins, Batallion Chief Dennis Devlin and Lt. Glenn Perry. Atop each stone is a replica of a firefighter’s helmet.

The somber, granite-and-brick tribute to the “Washingtonville Five” and the other 9/11 victims was completed on Sept. 7, 2002, in time for the first anniversary of their deaths.

Police say no parts of the memorial other than the flagpole were damaged.

The vandalism comes as a local group -- the Washingtonville-Blooming Grove 9/11 Benefit Fund -- is raising money to build an additional memorial to honor 9/11 first responders who have succumbed to illnesses caused by the toxic air they breathed at Ground Zero in the weeks and months afterward.

Washingtonville Mayor Joseph Bucco said a resident texted him a photo of the memorial damage upon discovering it early Wednesday morning. Bucco said the memorial and the park where it’s located are so well frequented that the vandalism must have happened the previous night.

“There’s always someone sitting on those benches, from morning until night,” he said.

Bucco said the village will replace the flagpole since the memorial is part of a village-owned park. He said that the park had no surveillance cameras that might have recorded the vandalism, but that he expected the village will now mount cameras in its parks.

Bucco said on Facebook that a reward of more than $3,000 is now being offered for information about the vandalism and its culprits.

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, a New Windsor Republican whose district includes Washingtonville, deplored the vandalism at both the memorial and church in a press release on Wednesday. “These two locations mean so much to Washingtonville and the larger community,” he said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Washingtonville police at 496-9123 and speak to one of the two detectives.


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