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Stolen medallions bring heartache to Sept. 11 victim's family


STOLEN: Two small gold pin medallions, each with a blue-enameled pentagon in the center, presented by the president of the United States to one family in remembrance of an act of valor that took a father from his children, a husband from his wife, a son from his mother and a brother from five siblings during the most devastating display of terrorism in American history. "It's not worth a whole lot of money," Brian Muldowney said of the missing treasure. "But, to us, it's priceless."

Muldowney's big brother, Richard T. "Richie" Muldowney, died Sept. 11, 2001, after he entered the World Trade Center with his fellow firefighters from New York City's Ladder 7, on a mission to save lives.

Four years later, the Muldowney family traveled to Washington, D.C., along with the families of 441 other firefighters, police officers and rescuers who also died.

They left with a small box that contained one 911 Heroes Medal of Valor and two small pins signifying the same. It was an award created by Congress especially to honor the public safety officers who sacrificed their lives that day.

"Things like that never completely heal you," said Brian Muldowney, 40, a Hillsborough County firefighter for 15 years. "Nothing completely heals you. But it makes you proud that his sacrifice is recognized."

The medal went to New York with Muldowney's widow and two children. The pins, they came to Tampa, with Brian and their mother, Anne Muldowney.

Fast-forward to March 6 of this year.

Sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Anne Muldowney left her Tampa apartment to make a quick grocery run. When she returned, she found her sliding glass door had been pried open and several valuables gone, including items from the jewelry box in her bedroom.

In the next two hours, she and her son tried to piece together what was there and what wasn't.

Then it hit them.

The pin medallions were gone.

"We didn't have a lot to bury after Sept. 11," Brian Muldowney said. In the absence of a body, the pins and the medal were something tangible, something to symbolize exactly what they had and what they lost.

And what they lost was, in the words of Brian Muldowney, "a good guy, a little rough around the edges, but he had a good heart."

He was the oldest of six raised in Freeport, Long Island, in a family where the big question was whether you would become a cop or a firefighter.

He was a man who was off-duty when the call came about the plane in the towers eight years ago, but he jumped in the truck with his colleagues anyway. He was a man, his brother said, who would have been devastated if he hadn't helped that day.

Last week, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies arrested Carlos Pierce, 18, and Alicia J. Sanders, 20, in connection with the burglary.

Pierce is being held without bail and Sanders was released on $10,000 bail. Both face charges of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and grand theft. But detectives have not recovered any of Anne Muldowney's stolen property.

Sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said the suspects aren't talking. The arrest is the first for Sanders, according to state records. But Pierce's criminal history includes four arrests this year alone, including carrying a concealed weapon, failure to appear and aggravated battery on a pregnant woman.

Brian Muldowney says the only thing he'd like to know from the suspects besides "why?" is "where?"

Where are the pins?

"Somebody has them," he said. "Just give them back.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at or (813) 226-3383.

Stolen medallions bring heartache to Sept. 11 victim's family 06/16/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 1:33pm]
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