Firefighters have come to the rescue after the latest spree of vandalism in town, a weekend attack on the town’s 9-11 Memorial in North Plymouth.
A week after someone spray-painted graffiti on Plymouth Rock, the Forefathers Monument and other local landmarks and attractions, vandals broke lights and toppled a statue of a police officer at the memorial on South Spooner Street overnight Saturday.
And just as quickly as the statue was damaged, local firefighters had it repaired.
More than two dozen off-duty members of the local firefighters union gathered at the memorial Monday morning to make repairs and spruce up the grounds.
Union President Brian Baragwanath said firefighters were appalled by the damage and decided to take responsibility for the memorial and make it better than it was before.
“It’s going to show we’re going to rally around the cause and make it better,” Baragwanath said.
The statue of the police officer, originally installed by local businessman Dicky Quintal as a memorial to the 60 police officers killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, was decapitated. An adjacent statue of a firefighter for the 343 firefighters lost in the attack was not damaged.
The statue was repaired, stone dust was added to the base, lights were fixed, leaves were raked and and the grounds were mulched. The union is also looking into installing a spotlight and a surveillance camera. “Hopefully it will show whoever vandalized it. You can knock us down, but we’re not out; we’re going to make this as good as it was before,” Baragwanath said.
Police Chief Michael Botieri said Monday that police are actively investigating the vandalism attacks in North Plymouth as well as the spray-painting spree a week earlier.
As of Monday, more than $2,755 had been raised as rewards for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the spray-painting spree. Contributors to an online GoFundMe campaign have raised $1,755. Jay McMahon, a candidate for state Senate, has pledged another $1,000 – $500 from him, $500 from others who stepped up to help – as a reward.
Botieri said police have no reason to believe the damage to the memorial in North Plymouth is connected with last week’s vandalism to the waterfront monuments.
The memorial has a history of rebounding from vandalism.
Two years after Quintal erected the statues as 9-11 memorials in front of a produce market he owned on South Spooner Street, someone lopped off the head of police officer statue for the first time.
Quintal offered a reward that was quickly enriched with donations from the public. He used the donations as seed money to help fund the expanded, adjacent memorial, a series of granite slabs with the names of all the known victims of the terrorist attacks.
Quintal later donated the memorial to the town, but offered to maintain it at no cost. He learned of the latest vandalism Sunday morning.
“I said, ‘Oh no, not again,’ but it could have been much worse, considering what’s been going on throughout town in the last week,” he said. “But that’s a memorial. They’ve damaged the heart of many people, even my own. But I still have a strong heart.”
Quintal said he has been in discussion with firefighters about taking over maintenance of the memorial. Local police and firefighters lead annual observances at the memorial on the anniversary of the attacks.
Baragwanath said most of this group of firefighters felt a connection to the attacks. Many were inspired to serve in the military or the police or fire service as a result of the terrorist attacks, he said.
“It’s huge influence on life as we know it now,” Baragwanath said. “We have to embrace that term ‘Never Forget.’ It’s in our being as firefighters,” he said.
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