Lindenhurst residents and officials were horrified Memorial Day weekend when they learned vandals had toppled a 300-pound concrete statue honoring 9/11 search-and-rescue dogs.
Now the statue is being rededicated -- this time with a bronze image of a German shepherd that helped an NYPD officer from Lindenhurst search for victims of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.
Retired NYPD officer Steve Smaldon said the statue aims to honor all of the 300 or so dogs used in the rescue effort. It will be dedicated at a ceremony Sunday at the village's 9/11 Memorial Park during an event devoted to remembering the eight victims of the attack who were from Lindenhurst. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is expected to be the keynote speaker.
"It feels good," Smaldon said of the dedication. "It's for all the dogs. They did a lot of work."
He added that he wants the ceremony to remain focused on the eight human victims from the area, who included FDNY firefighters Joseph Angelini and his son Joseph Jr.
The new statue and a camera security system cost about $8,000, which was donated by businesses and individuals disturbed by the statue's desecration, Smaldon said. Some of the main benefactors were John Furey and Kevin Harney of Islandia-based Stalco Construction, Anthony Farin of Long Island Rubbish, Nicolia Industry of Lindenhurst and the Lindenhurst Fire Department.
Suffolk police have made no arrests in the case, and Smaldon and Lindenhurst Mayor Tom Brennan said they remain stunned by the vandalism. "We feel it must have been kids," Brennan said, adding that he contacted the principal of the local high school to have him keep his ears open.
"Maybe they didn't have a clue what this thing was," Smaldon said. "I think they learned a lesson, hopefully." He added that the local 9/11 families were among those most upset by the vandalism.
Smaldon said he spent about 150 days at Ground Zero with his dog, Hansen, named after a NYPD officer who died in the line of duty. The dog died of natural causes in 2004, and Smaldon then partnered with another canine, Apollo. Both are now retired.The dedication will help heal some of the pain Smaldon and others felt after the previous statue was damaged. "To see him laying there, it hurt," Smaldon said. "It's heartbreaking."