As the town of Greenland marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Chief Michael Maloney, residents say the painful memories of that night are still fresh in their minds. But they also agree it’s important to remember the sacrifice the chief made to the community.
In the town of Greenland, life goes on.
On a recent morning, Town Administrator Karen Anderson is getting briefed about a small fire at the transfer station.
It’s the kind of minor issue Anderson deals with on a normal day.
But this town of 3,500 people, tucked away near the Seacoast, is preparing this week to remember a day that was anything but typical.
On April 12 of last year, a drug raid along Post Road went horribly wrong. Police Chief Michael Maloney was killed just days before he was set to retire, and four drug task force officers were wounded.
Anderson says residents haven’t talked much about that night since it happened. But in the past few days, she says people have been opening up, sharing their feelings as the first anniversary approaches.
“It’s something that is on our minds and I tend to think of the chief and he wouldn’t want a lot of to do. The job was the job and he understood that.”
That’s been part of the emotional preparation as the town prepares for a vigil on Friday to pay tribute to Chief Maloney.
There will also be physical reminders.
Dozens of black ribbons with a blue line down the middle sit in a pile on Anderson’s desk.
A group of volunteers made them this week to hand out to community members. They are meant to symbolize the thin blue line for a police officer lost in the line of duty.
“So a lot of people will be wearing those on Friday, businesses will be displaying the ribbon on Friday, as a visible outward thing, and we’ll have a moment of silence here at 5 o’clock where as many people as they want to come and be together, show that we still support each other, that we’re still here.”
Although it’s been a year, Board of Selectmen Chair John Penacho remembers the events of that night all too well. He recalls the feeling of panic not knowing what was going on as he rushed to the town offices.
“One of my vivid memories was driving here, driving along 16, trying to get back here as quick as I could, and seeing a lot of police cars going by very quickly with their lights on. So I kind of had a sense something was going on that was pretty serious.”
The death of the town’s police chief of 12 years shook the small, tight-knit community.
At the Suds 'N Soda convenience store and sport shop, employee Jason MacKenzie remembers joking with Chief Maloney how he should work at the store after retiring.
That was just before he died. And he remembers the chief being good with his children. He says his daughter came to develop a routine with him in the morning as she waited for the school bus.
“Seretta would always shoplift right in front of him on purpose, and then he would chase her around the store, grab her, tackle her, handcuff her around her arms because it wouldn’t fit around her wrists, and he’d grab her, take her outside, up against the ice machine. Well that became a ritual. So yeah, she took it really really hard when he died.”
MacKenzie says everyone in town has moved on in their own ways. But he says it’s important for the community to come together to recognize the sacrifice Chief Maloney made.
“Everyone’s moved forward, but no, we’re not trying to trudge up what happened, but still, you gotta pay tribute, you know? I’m glad people are paying tribute to him. He deserves it. He was definitely a hero.”
Around town, there are eerie reminders of that night.
The house where the raid occurred along Route 152 is shuttered and worn down. Windows are broken, no trespassing signs are put up, and the mailbox is missing.
And just down the road, on the police station’s front lawn, a memorial for Chief Maloney sits, surrounded by fresh yellow daffodils.
Anderson says members of Chief Maloney’s family are handling the anniversary in different ways.
A review of the drug raid commissioned by the Attorney General’s office brought to light a series of missteps in the planning. Officials say there have been changes made following that report to make sure this kind of tragedy doesn’t happen again.
But Greenland community members say what’s important now is to focus on what Chief Maloney meant to the town.
Selectman Vaughan Morgan says the vigil will allow residents to mourn but also to put the pain of that night in the past.
"To be able to put what has happened, this tragic event, behind us, and to be able to move on, and I think’s what Chief Maloney would like to have happen.”
A talent show is being held Greenland Central School following the vigil.
Money raised from the event will help pay for the Greenland police department to travel to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony where Chief Maloney’s name will be added the National Law Enforcement Memorial.
Anderson says it’s the type of event she knows Chief Maloney would have been at, right in the front row supporting the children of the community he loved.