By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) – Several American flags planted at the Public Garden in Boston in honor of 9/11 victims were damaged just hours after the display went up.

On Wednesday, 2,997 American flags were planted. Each represents someone who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

By early Thursday morning, many of them had been bent, snapped in half or uprooted and scattered on a sidewalk. Trash cans in the area were also knocked over and signs explaining the significance of the memorial were also missing.

Boston Police told WBZ-TV late Thursday afternoon that a suspect has been identified. They were offered services by outreach workers and will be summonsed to court for vandalism.

Some of the damaged American flags in the Boston Public Garden on Thursday morning. (WBZ-TV)

A group of about 30 people from Project 351 planted the flags Wednesday.

They encourage everyone to commit to acts of kindness and service honoring the lives lost on September 11.

Carolyn Casey, executive director and founder of Project 351, called the vandalism “heartbreaking and disappointing.”

“I just don’t understand, honestly, what would motivate somebody to do something like this,” she told WBZ.

Teresa Mathai, who lost her husband Joseph on 9/11, believes more education is needed about the day that changes the lives of so many people.

“I got a shock, I held my heart it was a physical reaction,” Mathai said. “Current generation, most probably born after 9/11 who don’t understand the importance of it, the gravity, the history of it.”

Several people passing through the park helped put the flags back into place and the overall display was eventually restored in about an hour.

Ashton Fagan was the first person who felt compelled to stop and help.

“We should stand for our flag and I will do that every single day,” she said.

Casey said seeing people eager to come fix the display was inspiring.

“It says that the best of our humanity is what gets us through every challenge or any challenge,” she said. “But as we know in Boston and Massachusetts, any time there is a challenge or there are acts of hatred, people respond with love, with unity, and community. That’s what happened when I walked in this morning. There were all these people who had stopped, or saw it on the news and came down to make sure all the flags were still up.”

Carolyn Casey replaces damaged flags after they were vandalized. (WBZ-TV)

Susan Butterfield told WBZ she was disappointed when she saw what had been done to the display.

“I feel close to this because I’m a former flight attendant. I was going over to my car and I was going to view this as a memorial, a remembrance. So I was very, very sad to see this kind of thing happening in our city,” she said. “It’s devastating that something like this could happen. But, it’s happening all over the country so I’m really, really very disappointed in people to have done this.”

CBSBoston.com Staff