Early Wednesday morning, police were called to a vandalized 9/11 memorial in Orange County, New York.
The flagpole, which once stood at the center of the memorial in Washingtonville, was cut down, and at the base, a message was scrawled in black marker, according to the Times Herald-Record.
Washingtonville Police Chief Brian Zaccaro explained that he didn’t want to disclose what the message said since the investigation was just getting started.
The Washingtonville memorial is a semi-circle of black granite with the names of five firefighters who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks engraved onto it. On top of each stone is a replica of a firefighter’s helmet.
“The park and monument area are maintained primarily by the Village of Washingtonville with the help of many volunteers from the community who show up a few times a year to spruce up the monument and surrounding gardens,” the 911 Living Memorial website says.
The community as a whole is outraged, according to Sergeant Ken Lopez of the Washingtonville Police Department. “The undertone in the community following the vandalism was one of disgust,” Lopez told Newsweek.
“That flag stood over a memorial commemorating the lives of five firefighters from this community.”
About a half-mile away, an eagle figure attached to the flagpole was found at the St. Mary’s Parish Center. The sign for the center was also toppled, Fox News reported.
“I promise you they will not leave any stone unturned to find the person or people responsible for [these] damages. Please be assured that whoever is responsible will be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law,” Washingtonville Mayor Joseph Bucco wrote in a Facebook post on the Village of Washingtonville page.
Many people, including Republican New York state Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, posted tweets expressing sadness and anger.
“The memorial has a temporarily fixed flag,” Schmitt tweeted, along with a thread of photos of the memorial.
Members of the Monell Engine Company and Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps were standing guard all day to protect the monument from being vandalized again, Schmitt posted Thursday:
Good out of evil. These young men, who are members of Monell Engine Company and JROTC, have stood guard all day through the elements and will keep watch of the 9-11 Memorial around the clock tonight after last nights desecration. I am so proud of them. pic.twitter.com/mjg0ewmkye
— Colin Schmitt (@colinschmitt) July 9, 2020
WASHINGTONVILLE MONUMENT VANDALIZED: #Police are investigating 2 incidents of overnight vandalism in #Washingtonville, including a downed flagpole at the 9/11 Fireman’s Memorial that was was allegedly intentionally damaged. Anyone with tips is asked to call PD @ 845-496-9123. pic.twitter.com/VUYFo04EFa
— Blaise Gomez (@BlaiseGomez12) July 8, 2020
“These individuals obviously don’t know what sacrificing everything to save a fellow human being really is,” NYC FireWire, an account that strives to provide accurate and timely information about fires and emergencies to the public, said in a tweet:
The destroy everything & hate everyone culture has struck again last night as the Washingtonville NY Orange County 9/11 Memorial park was vandalized & AMERICAN FLAG CUT DOWN. These individuals obviously don’t know what sacrificing everything to save a fellow human being really is pic.twitter.com/oUFdh3gWr2
— NYCFireWire (@NYCFireWire) July 8, 2020
Authorities were offering a reward of more than $3,000 to anyone who has any information regarding the vandalism that can help police catch the culprits, according Bucco.
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