May 27--Retired NYPD officer Steve Smaldon said he was on the verge of tears when he found out that vandals had toppled a 300-pound monument to 9/11 rescue dogs in a Lindenhurst park.
The cement statue, modeled after Smaldon's now-deceased German shepherd who spent about 150 days with Smaldon searching through the rubble of Ground Zero, was the only thing damaged in the memorial park on Irmisch Avenue near Easton Street, officials said.
"It was 9/11, which to everyone should mean something," said Smaldon, 50, of Lindenhurst. "Why would somebody want to do this? It's like going into a cemetery," Smaldon said as he stood near the vandalized statue Friday morning.
The statue "wasn't an easy thing" to knock over, said Suffolk County police Det. Lt. Robert Edwards, commanding officer of the First Squad detectives. "We don't know if it was targeted or if it was just vandalism."
Police said it appeared as if the vandal had used nothing but hands or feet to kick over the monument.
The park has plaques dedicated to eight Lindenhurst residents, including FDNY firefighters Joseph Angelini and his son Joseph Jr., who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The park also has the statue modeled after Hansen, the rescue dog. A plaque for the rescue dogs says: "Trained to Save. Live to Serve."
The park was dedicated in 2007 and has a stream and two small pools of water in the shape of the Twin Towers. The memorial was conceived by an 11-year-old middle school student the day after the attacks.
Donna Angelini, widow of Joseph Angelini Jr., told Newsday at a memorial ceremony in September that she was given keys to the park after locks were put on the gates to keep out vandals. She said then that she often visited the park to walk and sit on a bench across from an engraving of her husband. "It's very tranquil and peaceful," Angelini said.
Smaldon said Hansen, named for an NYPD officer, found numerous remains.
The rescue dog died of natural causes in 2004 at age 11, he said, adding that seeing the damaged statue was heartbreaking."It's in pieces," Smaldon said. "They took a lot of time smashing it . . . "Watching him laying there is making me cry," said Smaldon, who spent 23 years on the job, a dozen of them with the canine unit.
"You feel like it's him. You can't help him. It's like when he died, Smaldon said."