SMITHTOWN - Police officers from Long Island and New York City crowded a Smithtown deli Sunday to say thanks for its support.
Denato Panico Sr. and his son, Denato Panico Jr., drove their food trucks into Manhattan 15 years ago to feed the first responders digging through rubble at ground zero following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
They recruited friends to help, including the mechanic and exterminator who had done work at their Panico's Community Market.
More recently, the Panicos delivered 300 hero sandwiches to city and Long Island police officers and firefighters last year.
"We wanted to show the cops, firemen and our veterans that they are truly appreciated," Panico says. "Because they haven't been treated, I don't think, in a fair manner in the last few years, and we wanted to show that we care about them."
Now the Heroes 4 Our Heroes program has delivered more than 3,000 sandwiches to police precincts and firehouses on the Island and in NYC, they say.
"That means an awful lot to us," says Patrick Lynch, of the city's Police Benevolent Association. "That's how the average citizen feels about police officers. They support them."