The family of the late Det. Steven McDonald, city officials and his fellow NYPD officers gathered on the anniversary of his death to commemorate him with a plaque at the Central Park precinct during a poignant ceremony on a bittersweet day.
McDonald died on Jan. 10, 2017, after suffering an apparent heart attack at the age of 59. He had been a paraplegic since he was shot by a teenager in Central Park in 1986 but learned to speak, spreading a message of forgiveness that inspired many around the world who came to know him. Those attending the ceremony included former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, as well as former Mayor David Dinkins.
“Bitter because we miss him but sweet because we knew him, because he taught us so much so beautifully,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said about the significance of the day.
In remembering McDonald, de Blasio said McDonald’s message was one of protecting others and “forgiving those we come across who do the wrong thing as well as well as sobering those who do the right thing.”
Both McDonald’s widow, Patti Ann, who is mayor of Malverne, and the couple’s son, Conor, spoke to a hushed crowd squeezed into the precinct reception hall.
“My father was giant in my life, he was my hero, he gave me all the opportunities I have,” said Conor, who became an NYPD officer in 2010.
Introducing his mother, Conor said she was the person who gave his father hope in the dark days after the shooting when it was clear McDonald would never walk again.
“Steven was an exceptional human, the best of the best. He was a loyal and loving husband and devoted and very passionate father,” Patti Ann said.
Recalling her husband’s competitiveness, Patti Ann got a laugh from the crowd when she recalled how McDonald befuddled referees at competitive sports games his son was playing.
“When Conor played competitive sports, the refs wouldn’t know what to do because Steven would be screaming,” she remembered. “You can’t yell at a man in wheelchair,” the chagrined referees said.