When organizers of the Farmingdale Baseball 9/11 Memorial Tournament saw Boston in the grips of terror -- after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the April 15 marathon -- they reached out to offer support.
Five Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officers were honored on the baseball field Saturday in memory of their fallen colleague, Sean Collier, who was fatally shot during a late-night confrontation with the Boston bombing suspects three days after the attacks. Tournament organizers presented the officers with a $5,000 check.
Sgt. D.J. O'Connor was taken aback by the donation, saying he thought they were only to be guests at the event. He said the Boston area is "angry and hurting," but after seeing how New York has recovered from 9/11, he said he has hope that "things will someday be OK" for the region.
Life has begun to return to normal on campus, he added. "Police officers are out there on patrol, honoring his name every night by doing the job the way Sean would have done it," he said.
The MIT officers stood on the pitcher's mound, beside two Nassau officers holding American and county flags. Uniformed Little League players stood in a circle around the baseball diamond and removed their hats for the national anthem. Then, heads turned to the sky for a helicopter flyover.
Jim Disanti said he founded the tournament three years ago as a way to help victims of 9/11, to remember them, to educate a younger generation who had not lived through the attacks, and to have some fun with America's national pastime of baseball. The tournament now has more than 60 teams, he said.
James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, said he sympathized with the MIT department's loss, particularly since the Nassau police department has lost five of its own officers since 2011. "We all do this every day," he said.
The Nassau PBA contributed an additional $2,500 to the MIT officers, Carver said. His department has been hosting them for the weekend and introducing them to highlights of Long Island, including White Castle, he said.
Carver said events like Saturday's are vital to honoring the legacy of Collier and other fallen emergency responders.
"As long as we remember Sean, he lives forever," Carver said. "He sacrificed his life in the line of duty. We owe it to him to make sure he lives forever in our hearts."