First responders Owen and Jimmy O’Callaghan know firsthand what search and rescue dogs were subjected to after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. They remember fastening protective shoes to the dogs' paws so they wouldn’t get burned.
The twin brothers, who worked for the 13th police precinct in Manhattan at the time and later became New York City firemen, were also longtime friends of Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL who was awarded a Medal of Honor after he was killed in 2005 in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday night the Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 held a joint fundraiser with the USS Michael Murphy Commissioning Committee, which raises funds to house families that visit sailors aboard the ship.
The event brought 100 people to Ruvo Restaurant & Bar in Port Jefferson and raised $2,100. The funds will be split between the committee and Post 6249, which is adding a statue of a German shepherd search and rescue dog to its 9/11 memorial. The memorial was unveiled at Diamond in the Pines park in Coram during last year’s 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The dog statue project is estimated to cost $15,000.
“It will be a good addition to the park,” said Rich Acritelli, a member of Post 6249. “There’s not many of those around. It'll make an already very strong memorial that much stronger to remember.”
Post 6249 plans to have an unveiling ceremony for the statue on Sept. 8 at 11 a.m.
The O’Callaghan brothers had been best friends with Murphy since they were all lifeguards at Lake Ronkonkoma Beach as teenagers. A year after the Twin Towers were attacked, Owen O’Callaghan became a New York City firefighter in Spanish Harlem’s Engine 53 Ladder 43, also known as “El Barrio’s Bravest.”
“When Michael was killed he was wearing a patch from our firehouse,” said Owen O’Callaghan, 33, of Mount Sinai. “He gave out patches to his unit to remind them of 9/11 and what they were there fighting for.”
Murphy’s father Daniel, mother Maureen and brother John were among the guests Wednesday.
“These fundraisers not only support the families of the crew, but also will recognize what 9/11 first responders and dogs did,” said Daniel Murphy, of Wading River. “This is going to help.”
Post 6259 plans to install lights on the brick walkway at the memorial that will have engraved names and messages purchased by families who have lost loved ones during the attacks or in war. A number of benches will surround the statue.
Former New York Yankee Frank Tepedino, who signed autographs for guests Wednesday, was working for the FDNY’s Fire Patrol division at the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
“It’s not that it’s all going to be forgotten, but it’s like World War I, World War II, something new occurs and memories are lost,” said Tepedino, 64, of St. James. “This is a place people can go and say a prayer for those lost and reflect on past tragedies.”
Maureen Murphy said her son was humble and never wanted to be the center of attention, but he would have liked this event.
“It’s nice to see people come out for this,” said Murphy, of Patchogue. “Actually, this would be his thing, to go to a bar with his friends at this small setting.”