Members of Project 351 , a youth leadership organization, set up the flags on Wednesday evening in Boston’s Garden of Remembrance, which was completed in 2004 and is a monument to nearly 200 people with ties to Massachusetts who were killed in the attacks 20 years ago.
On Thursday morning, passersby noticed many of the flags were pulled out of the ground and strewn across the paths. Garbage cans were knocked over, and signs explaining the significance of the memorial had gone missing.
Boston police are in the midst of investigating the vandalism. On Thursday afternoon, they reported they had identified a suspect who would be summoned to court on vandalism charges.
Boston police have not released the man's name, but have confirmed he would be summoned to court to face vandalism charges.
As the park service cleaned up the garbage, people passing by took a moment to pay their respects to the Massachusetts lives lost.
Carolyn Casey, executive director of Project 351, told CBS Boston the sight was “heartbreaking and disappointing.” Many other people passing through the park also shared their sentiments and stopped to help put the display back in order. Some of them had personal connections to the 9/11 attacks as well.
“I got a shock, I held my heart. It was a physical reaction,” expressed Teresa Mathai, who lost her husband in the attacks. “Current generation, most probably born after 9/11 who don’t understand the importance of it, the gravity, the history of it.”
Casey expressed gratitude to the people who took the time to show respect and fix the display.
“It says that the best of our humanity is what gets us through every challenge or any challenge,” she said. “But as we know in Boston and Massachusetts, any time there is a challenge or there are acts of hatred, people respond with love, with unity, and community.”
Ashton Fagan said she couldn’t walk by and leave the act of apparent vandalism as it was. She stopped to pick up the flags.
"My grandfather was a firefighter. He fought overseas, and all those police officers who go out every single day and put their bodies in front of us to protect us," Fagan said.
"We can’t forget. I’m from Boston originally, but I lived in New York for 20 years, and I was in New York for 9/11. So to remember and know we’re honoring those we lost and those who tried to save people and their families. It’s a part of us now," Laurie Matthews said.