A day after many in Long Beach grieved over a vandalized 9/11 street memorial, the structure was made new again by firefighters who answered the call to fix the unusual tribute to their fallen colleagues.
The memorial was back in place Sunday morning, serving as a roadblock in a pedestrian-only street. Cyclists rode by the restored structure on Oceanview Avenue, some in sandals because of the springlike weather. Joggers passed by too, as did dog walkers.
“A happy ending after all,” a woman shouted as she rode by on her bicycle.
The memorial was unlike others throughout Long Island — usually sections of steel beams recovered from Ground Zero. This one was an amalgam of structures: five flags attached to a buoy on top of a wooden box.
It was built about 10 years ago by Bill Murphy, 77, who lives across the street from the structure, and who cared for it as if it was his own garden — adding plants and religious ornaments such as angels. On Saturday, Murphy woke up to the overturned memorial and worried it could not be restored.
So Murphy taped a letter to a poster on a utility pole to urge the community to care about the memorial that had been wrecked by “some moron.” Conversation spread on Facebook, and volunteers from the Long Beach Fire Department agreed to remake it. Two worked through the night to build a new buoy, which was painted white and made of wood, rather than the PVC used in the first structure.
It would be stronger, firefighters said.
“I came out every morning and checked it,” said Murphy, whose home overlooks it. Sometimes vandals would tear out the flowers, he said. “I replaced the flowers.”
Murphy’s structure “has become a staple in Long Beach,” said Robert Tuccillo, chief of the Long Beach Fire Department. “Everybody who walks and jogs around here knows about it.”
But the vandalism Saturday saddened Murphy and neighbors of the department, which had four volunteers die in the attacks on the World Trade Center and another two die of 9/11-related illnesses.
Edward Langdon, 26, a union carpenter who works on commercial storefronts in New York City, said he was “humbled” to cut and paint the wood. It took him and another firefighter, John Marino, 30, until 4:30 a.m.
“I had the trade knowledge; I had to do something,” a weary-eyed Langdon said.
One jogger, Marion Donovan, 76, passes by the memorial near her home on her morning runs. Donovan’s daughter Jacqueline, 34, was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. She worked in the south tower as a secretary for Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, the financial services firm.
Murphy said he had Donovan’s loss in mind when he asked the community for help.
“There are a thousand and one of the memorials” dedicated to the victims of Sept. 11, Donovan said. But she explained that Murphy’s, on the street near her home, “has even more of a special meaning” coming from “a neighbor — a friend.”
Murphy bought beer and pizza for the firefighters Sunday to celebrate the overnight restoration of the memorial. Gesturing to the men as they ate on the side of Oceanview Avenue, Murphy, his voice catching, said: “Look what they did for me.”