By Leslie Yager
It was months in the making, but on Saturday at Greenwich Police headquarters, a custom-painted motorcycle designed to serve as a tribute to 9/11 heroes and Greenwich Police who have lost their lives in the line of duty was unveiled.
Though it will reside in the lobby of Greenwich Police headquarters at 11 Bruce Place, the motorcycle will appear at ceremonies and events including the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
At the ceremony on Saturday, Police Chief Heavey described his “almost teen” children as living in a post-9/11 world.
“They don’t know what it was like before 9/11,” Heavey said. “It’s our generation’s Pearl Harbor. You’ll always remember where you were when it happened.”
Before several members of the police force removed the white cover from the motorcycle, ending months of anticipation, Heavey told the crowd that had gathered to witness its unveiling that it might take two or three walks around the bike to absorb the symbolism incorporated into its design.
A Star for Each of Three Greenwich Police Who Have Died in the Line of Duty
In particular, Heavey elaborated on the significance of the three stars featured prominently on the front of the bike as they represent the officers killed in the line of duty since the creation of the Greenwich Police force.
According to Heavey, the first Greenwich Police officer to lose his life was Patrolman William J. Robbins who died on May 17, 1929. During the early morning of May 14, 1929 Robbins was on routine motorcycle patrol on the Post Road when he was struck by a motor vehicle. He suffered severe injuries and died three days later.
The second officer to lose his life was Joseph McCormack, who died on January 1, 1944. Heavey said that on May 17, 1927 McCormack was on duty with another officer when they made a routine motor vehicle stop. Three men in the car jumped out and ran. One was captured and two fled. Police cars did not yet feature radios, so the senior officer drove to the call box on Old Church Rd and Post Rd.
While McCormack stood guard of the prisoner, a second car pulled up. Two men jumped out of the car and shot McCormack in the back before fleeing with the prisoner.
The injury left McCormack paralyzed from the waist down. It was just his second day on the job. He died of his injuries in 1944. Heavey said the three men, part of a notorious gang from Boston, were eventually arrested and sent to prison.
The third Greenwich Police Officer to lose his life was Det. James J. Butler who died on April 18, 1954. On Sunday, Jan. 16, 1950, Butler and his partner Det. Thomas Burke, responded to an address in the back country on Cutler Rd on the report of two stolen turkeys. Shortly after beginning their investigation, the suspect brandished a 22 caliber pistol and fired four shots, with one hitting Det. Burke in the side and two penetrating Det. Butler’s stomach and his intestines.
As Det. Butler lay on the ground, he saw the assailant turning his gun toward Det. Burke again and drew his 38 pistol, getting off one more shot at the assailant, striking him in the neck and killing him instantly. Det. Butler died in on April 18,1954 as the direct result of the injuries sustained during this incident.
Silver Shield President: “An endeavor like this doesn’t come cheap.”
Sgt. Brent Reeves of the Silver Shield Association said the police department and the his organization collaborated to make the motorcycle a reality and thanked corporate sponsor, Fairway Market.
“An endeavor like this doesn’t come cheap,” said Reeves. “When we reached out to Charles Santoro of Fairway Market, he simply said to us, ‘Tell us what you need.'”
Reeves added that he expects the motorcycle in the lobby of Greenwich Police Headquarters will “serve as a reminder of why our badges are shaped like shields.”
Richard Pinnavaia of the 9/11 Foundation said that the mission of the organization, which was founded in 2003 in Leesburg, Virginia, is to support first responders — fire, police and EMS — throughout the nation.
Pinnavaia said that every August his organization coordinates a motorcycle ride, fully-escorted, to the three 9/11 crash sites. The organization also assists with and attends as many police funerals as possible.
Lastly, Pinnavaia said the 9/11 Foundation runs an annual essay contest for $2,000 scholarships and that this year the topic question is: “How would you explain the events of 9/11 to a person born after it happened?”
Others who worked behind the scenes to make the Tribute to Heroes Motorcycle a reality included Sgt. John Slusarz and Greenwich Police Officer Dave Stewart, who was tasked with finding an artist to design and paint the motorcycle. Stewart said his research led to Jamie Chasse of Explicit airbrush.com in Southington. The two collaborated for six months on brainstorming the design. The actual airbrushing took four months to complete, according to Chasse.
In addition to the three stars for fallen Greenwich Police, the artwork on the front of the motorcycle features the names of 28 people killed on 9/11 who either hailed from Greenwich or were connected to the Town.
On the bike’s side is a motif representing the three sites associated with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Somerset County in Pennsylvania.
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