The dedication of a new playground in West Babylon to the late NYPD Det. Peter Figoski brought together his police buddies and loved ones, who remembered him as much for his dedication to family as for his sacrifice in the line of duty.
There were lots of hugs, smiles and reminiscing at Saturday's ceremony unveiling the "Detective Peter Figoski Memorial Playground."
But as the honor guard stood at attention at Van Bourgondien Park, it brought to mind Figoski's funeral, where thousands of police had lined the streets of Babylon Village and his four daughters hugged each other for strength.
"This is both sad and wonderful at the same time," said Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer, speaking to the dozens of people gathered on a sun-splashed day.
Figoski, a 22-year veteran of the NYPD and West Babylon resident, was shot and killed in 2011 while responding to a call to a drug dealer's apartment in Brooklyn. He was posthumously promoted to detective.
Figoski, 47, represented the backbone of this middle class community filled with police, fire and corrections officers, who also serve as coaches for youth teams, Schaffer said. Figoski spent many hours in this very park coaching his daughters' soccer teams.
Caroline Figoski, 23, recalled her father standing on the sidelines while she played soccer here as a kid.
"He never yelled," she said. "He just wanted us to have fun."
When Figoski was killed, his two older daughters, Christine and Caitlyn, were attending college upstate. Caroline and Corinne were at Babylon Junior-Senior High School. Figoski was divorced.
On Saturday, Caroline helped unveil the sign for the playground. Her father's parents stood beside her, his mother fighting back tears.
Caroline has just finished her master's degree in teaching. Corinne is going to school to become a teacher. Christine and Caitlyn are both social workers.
They all live on Long Island, not far from one another, she said.
"It was very nice to see people putting this all together," said Caroline Figoski. "It's great to see people still remembering."
Jim Figoski, the detective's older brother, said he was touched that the community chose to honor his brother some eight years after he was slain.
"It's amazing," said Figoski, 61, of Manorville. He still finds it hard to talk about his brother without choking up. "Not a day doesn't go by when I don't think of him, and miss him."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who grew up in North Babylon and had served as the town supervisor, said Figoski has long been heralded as a hero. He already has a street and a bridge named in his honor in West Babylon.
"Today is really about honoring a great man, a great father who loved his four daughters," Bellone said.
Figoski's commanding officer in Brooklyn, NYPD Assistant Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, said he was impressed with Figoski's character from the moment they met. Seeing that Figoski had more than 20 years patrolling the streets, Maddrey said he offered him a job where he didn't have to patrol.
"That's not what I do," Figoski said, according to Maddrey. "I'm here to protect the community."
Even as public officials made speeches about the new blue-and-yellow playground, kids were already busy playing on the swings, barreling down the slides and monkeying around on the jungle gym.
Parents said the playground will be a safe place where kids can come and have fun.
NYPD Det. Andrew Stack was having a ball pushing his 3-year-old son Camden on a swing. He hopes that children see the playground sign and ask about Figoski. They would learn, he said, the story of a true hero.
For now, it was enough for him to see the big smile on his son's face as the boy swung out and back, again and again.