Six years ago, two men responsible for placing two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon shot and killed Wilmington native and MIT police officer Sean Collier as he sat in his police cruiser while on his normal 3 - 11:15 p.m. assignment.
When news first broke, an outpouring of support came from law enforcement officers all around the state and the country, not to mention from then Governor Deval Patrick and then Boston Mayor Tom Menino. Flags were lowered to half-staff and memorials were placed at the site where he was killed.
Today, Collier’s hometown has the chance to remember the fallen hero thanks to the work of Wilmington High School student Joseph Wilson. The high school senior started a GoFundMe page to raise money for a memorial in Collier’s honor. He originally asked for $3,000, but as of press time, he had already more than doubled that amount.
When asked what he would do were he to raise more than the necessary amount, Wilson said he would donate the rest to Collier’s family and the Sean Collier Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Upon finding out that he had already well-exceeded his goal, Wilson said, “The goal has been exceeded and I’m so happy that it has.”
Collier graduated from the school in 2004, then went on to Salem State College where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with honors in 2009. During his time at Salem State, Collier also served as an auxiliary police officer with the Somerville Police Department. He became the youngest member to attain the rank of sergeant.
Collier was an intern with the Somerville Police Department before becoming a Records Clerk in the late afternoon and evening shift. He was sponsored by Somerville Police to attend the MBTA Transit Police Academy, which he did on his own time, while still working an evening shift in the Records Bureau and assisting the Technology Officer. Collier finished top of his class academically and had the highest grade point average of any officer who graduated from the MBTA Academy.
In 2012, he became a member of the MIT police department.
Before Collier’s passing, MIT Police Chief John DiFava worried that Somerville Police would call Collier back to Somerville, so DiFava tried to talk him into staying at MIT. The chief saw Collier as a promising young officer and felt his potential loss would be difficult for MIT to overcome.
Sadly, the call never came.
For Wilson, Collier represented “exactly what it means to be a police officer.
“I want people to appreciate the men and women who risk their lives every day and go out there to protect people who they don’t even know. These men and women sacrifice so much: holidays, birthdays, family events, graduations, and sometimes they make the ultimate sacrifice.”
While the Wilmington High School senior didn’t know Collier personally, he said his dad knew him from work as a Superintendent of Operations with the Cambridge Police Department.
“He worked as a police officer in the city for 32 years,” Wilson said about his father, “so he worked very closely with MIT and the MIT Police. He never really worked with Sean directly but he met him a few times working in the city.”
The memorial will be a black granite stone about 2’ by 1.5’. The rendering will be etched into the stone and it will be placed in the high school’s courtyard opposite the corner of the 9/11 memorial.
About the memorial, Wilson said, “I hope for the memorial to be erected mid-to-late summer of this year! I hope to plan an unveiling and dedication ceremony at the high school and I will certainly reach out to Sean’s family when the details become available!”
He added how he’s wanted to do this for two years and the senior project gave him the opportunity.
“For the most part, I’m working on this on my own,” the senior acknowledged. “I do have help from Ms. Fidler, a graphic design teacher at WHS, who is serving as my faculty advisor and she helped me turn my drawing into a digital rendering.”
For anyone who knew Collier, they would say he is more than deserving of this honor.
Just days after the shooting, a roommate of Collier’s told the Boston Globe, through tears, that Collier was “awesome,” his only fault being that he was too brave.
“He was the guy who went to help,” the roommate told the Globe. “The best guy got shot down.’’
In a statement released just days after his murder, Collier’s family said, “We are heartbroken by the loss of our wonderful and caring son and brother, Sean Collier. Our only solace is that Sean died bravely doing what he committed his life to — serving and protecting others. We are thankful for the outpouring of support and condolences offered by so many people.”
One of Collier’s former bosses at the Somerville Police Department, Lieutenant William Rymill, who had known Collier for five years, said that he often would come in on his time off to help out, or help officers set up their personal computers at home.
“Anybody could relate to him. Sean could talk to anybody,” Rymill told the Globe. “The girls here in dispatch haven’t stopped crying.”
For anyone who saw the movie made about the marathon bombings, “Patriots Day,” the director portrayed Collier as a young, dedicated officer who enjoyed country music and was very excited to take a young girl on a date to see country performers, The Zac Brown Band.
Even at the time of the shooting, Collier didn’t merely surrender to the two suspects, he bravely fought back and attempted to stop the men from stealing his weapon.
Wilson, for his part, said he’s ready to follow in Collier’s footsteps and become an officer himself.
“I do have similar ambitions!” Wilson said regarding becoming a law enforcement officer. “Right now, I work as an EMT in the area and I am an aspiring police officer. My dad serves as my inspiration every day and my guidance in my career choices!”
If Wilson can become half the man that people described Collier as, then he’d live one heck of a life.