Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

AMBUSH: THE BRINKS ROBBERY OF 1981

Twenty Years

20th anniversary ceremony
20th anniversary ceremony

A persistent, but gentle wind swept through the solemn crowd at the intersection of Mountainview Avenue and the New York State Thruway. On this crisp and beautiful autumn day, not unlike October 20, 1981, over 500 people had gathered there for the 20th anniversary of the murders of Sgt. Ed O'Grady, Officer Waverly Brown and Pete Paige. Chief Alan Colsey spoke at the ceremony, recalling fond and emotional memories of the two men whose loss belongs to the Nyack community as well as their respective families. "While we mourn our loss, we also seek to celebrate the lives they lived, the families they loved, the friends they made, the hearts they touched. These were all respected, dedicated and honorable men sons, brothers and fathers to fine families, examples of the best of the American spirit," he said in a brief but eloquent speech. A solid granite bench was dedicated at the site, which consisted of a stone marker, a flag atop a twenty-foot pole and a paved brick walkway.

But the "cause" for which these crimes were ostensibly committed has long ago disappeared. It is forgotten by most, and today, those that do remember it, ridicule the notion that any of these crimes were committed for political reasons. We know from the suspects' own words that they were driven by a hatred and bitterness towards our country that most of us simply cannot understand. Some paid for that belief with their lives. Those that survive may spend the rest of their lives behind prison bars, contemplating the misguided ideas that put them there. "They were enemies of America," said Lt. Jim Stewart of the Brink's gang, "they wanted to build a separate country, renounce their citizenship. How else can you describe them?"

Chief Alan Colsey stood before a vibrant and colorful wreath placed at the memorial, while a lone bugler played the mournful sounds of taps in the distance. As a police sergeant in a flawless dress uniform shouted out the order "PRESENT ARMS!" several hundred cops brought their arms up to a rigid salute. In the stillness, only a six-year-old child, full of life and joy, oblivious to the solemn proceedings, played on the neatly trimmed grass in front of the assembly. The boy sat down on the ground and then lay on his back staring into space, his heart and mind in a different place than the rest of us. We could look up and see the American flag rolling in motion with the breeze, its stars and stripes, its colors vivid against a cloudless sky. It made a flopping sound in the wind, somehow familiar and comforting, its history and the passions it arouse ever so powerful, especially in these times. Its fleeting shadow passed intermittently over the crowd, upon their faces, hiding for just a moment the tears of friends and loved ones, sweeping over the granite bench and across the simple words, etched forever in stone: "American patriots and men of peace."

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