A new playground in Randolph, Massachusetts, designed as a tribute to a police officer who was injured in the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers and died nearly a year later, officially opened on Saturday.
Officer Dennis "D.J." Simmonds was seriously injured in the 2013 search for the Boston Marathon bombers when an explosive detonated near him. He passed away nearly a year later, on April 10, 2014, after suffering a medical emergency as a result of those injuries.
He was just 28 years old.
While growing up in Randolph, Simmonds used to play at Belcher Park, the home of the new playground. He graduated from Randolph High School in 2004 and eventually became a Boston police officer.
The playground, unveiled in a plan last year but delayed by the pandemic, was a joint effort by Randolph town officials and the Where Angels Play Foundation. The Randolph Town Council donated $20,000 to make the project happen.
"It tells our children that police work is important work and has great value to it," Randolph Planning Director Michelle Tyler said. "And we were hoping that that’s something of a message that kids will pull away from this playground."
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the park on Saturday at 11 a.m., making this newest tribute a permanent place for kids to roam and play — over the same ground that Simmonds used to run on when he was a youngster.
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"The tears you’ll see today are tears of joy," said Bill Lavin, founder of Where Angels Play. "We’ve chosen, and this began with the Sandy Hook families, to celebrate. We don’t want this to be a wake or a funeral for D.J., but rather a celebration of his life."
It's not the first time the Randolph native's legacy has been honored in the years since his passing. In 2017, the Randolph High School gym was named in memory of him. The following year, he was posthumously promoted to sergeant by the Boston Police Department.
"He was an exceptional police officer who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the city he loved. This is a tribute to his hard work and service to the City of Boston during his time as an officer," former Boston Police Department Police Commissioner William Evans said of the promotion in 2018.