Statues honoring police and firefighters are back at the town’s 9/11 Memorial in North Plymouth and looking better than ever.
And now they are also being watched over.
Noreen and Mark Melchert of Triumph Masonry in Wareham returned the firefighter statue to the memorial Monday morning, reuniting the restored concrete memorial with the police officer statue they also refurbished after a recent attack of vandalism.
At the same time, an electrician for integrated Electrical Systems in Quincy installed a pair of high definition security cameras that will allow the town to keep an eye on the memorial and hopefully deter future damage.
Triumph Masonry and Integrated Electrical Systems were among several businesses and individuals that came forward to help after an overnight vandalism spree at the memorial in late February.
Just days after a teen went on a spree spray painting landmarks downtown, someone knocked the head off the statue of the police officer that was the original piece in the town’s impressive memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A vandal similarly destroyed the original police statue that local businessman Dicky Quintal installed in front of his produce store on South Spooner Street in 2004 to honor first responders who died in the attacks.
After donations for repairs started pouring in, Quintal built an expanded memorial that included the names of all of the victims of the attacks. Quintal later donated the memorial to the town and continues to help maintain the memorial. He is now handing off those duties to firefighters, who lead annual observances at the site every Sept. 11.
For firefighters, who lost 343 of their own in the attacks, it is holy ground. After the most recent vandalism, dozens of off-duty firefighters spent a day fixing broken lights and sprucing up the grounds. TL Edwards donated mulch and Kingston Block donated crushed stone to the project.
The Melcherts volunteered to fix the statues after seeing the damage on the news.
“We saw it on the morning news and, like a lot of people, it was really disheartening that someone would do that,” Noreen Melchert said of the vandalism.
Ironically, the firefighter statue was in worse shape than the police officer statue because the concrete ax had degraded badly and the Melcherts had to thread a rod into the statue before they could restore the it.
“Even his boots were completely deteriorated. They both needed a lot of work,” Melchert said.
The Melcherts worked on the statues after their regular work day, spending 15 hours repairing and repainting each. They returned the police officer last week and the firefighter Monday morning.
“It feels good to give back, and there’s no comparison by any means with what they do every day – the military, the firefighters, the police,” Melchert said.
Like the Melcherts, Chris Sidoti, president of Integrated Electrical Systems, said he was disgusted by the vandalism and just wanted to do whatever he could to help.
A Kingston resident, Sidoti said he watched the memorial come together years ago and was impressed by the scope of the project.
“When we saw that on TV, it just broke my heart,” Sidoti said. “My wife and I could not believe someone would to something like that. That’s there in memory of one of our darkest days. We just wanted to do whatever we could.”
He hopes to protect the statues and discourage another attack with cameras that can zoom in on and identify future vandals.
In addition to being high definition, the cameras can be viewed remotely by anyone with an internet password.
“We’ve already set it up for people in town who want to keep an eye on it,” Sidoti said. “Hopefully it won’t happen again.”
Quintal and Brian Baragwanath, president of the local firefighters union, were on hand to express their thanks for the help Monday.
“It makes me very happy, especially to know there’s a place now where these can be refurbished,” Quintal said, noting that his sister would periodically work on the statues on the dining room table at home.
Baragwanath said the vandalism spree solidified firefighters’ resolve to look after the memorial and spawned an even greater response of community pride.
“Because of this bad cause, we came together and turned it into something good,” he said.
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