A glimpse into the life of a first responder

Independence Fire Department welcomed Palmyra residents for annual open house and 9/11 memorial dedication

The 9/11 Memorial across the street from Independence Fire Department where a piece of steel from the World Trade Centers was recently added

Stephen Finn

The Sun

Independence Fire Department opened its doors to the public last Monday night for a regular open house event it hosts each year. This one was special, however, not only because the week of Oct. 8 was Fire Prevention Week, but because the department was kicking off the night with a special dedication of its 9/11 memorial displayed underneath the American flag across the street from the station.

Although the memorial has resided in that spot for some time, on this night they unveiled the the final piece to the puzzle, a section of steel from the original World Trade Center that was donated by the Fire Department of New York.

The light rain didn’t deter attendees, who formed a half-circle around the memorial as the ceremony began with an address from Department President Brian Cattell.

“It’s been a long time in the making, and I want to thank everybody that worked so hard to get this done,” said Cattell.

The mic was passed to Mayor Michelle Arnold, who presented the department with a flag of heroes which featured the names of the firefighters, police officers and first responders who were lost.

“This is a solemn occasion, but what a beautiful tribute to those we lost on 9/11,” said Arnold.

The dedication itself was performed by the department’s chaplain, the Rev. David Confer. “May we never forget 17 years ago,” he began, “there are many things we have forgotten about 2001, this is one we’ll never forget. This memorial will be an inspiration to our fire company, the police and all of us in town.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, everyone attending was invited inside the department’s garage for the open house portion of the night.

Inside there were a number of tables set up by representatives from Palmyra’s emergency services. The police department, local EMTs and members of the town’s Community Emergency Response Team were present to meet with the public and put a face to the community’s emergency responders.

For the kids, the department set up an obstacle course where they could try on child-sized gear and get a taste of what firefighter training is like. The adults were able to meet with the representatives from each department and learn about the options available to them in case of an emergency.

Kristin Adams, an EMS lieutenant covering Palmyra, Riverton and Cinnaminson, ran a table demonstrating how to properly administer CPR. Visitors were able to practice on mannequins under the supervision of the staff.

“This is important because it brings the public into our home. For our older community, they can get to know our first responders, and for the younger community who might not know what an emergency is, this is the time for them to ask us,” said Adams.

One of the final events of the night was a demonstration of how to properly deal with fires that can occur in the kitchen. Deputy Chief Howard Roun and Department Treasurer John Skowronski set up a mock kitchen behind the garage and put out controlled fires, each representing a different scenario that can occur in one’s home.

For Chief Richard Dreby, events like the open house offer an opportunity for the public to get to know the men and women who make up their local emergency response teams and maybe gain an appreciation for the work they do.

“We want to let people know that we’re here and we’re volunteers. Sometimes people that move over from the city think we’re paid and don’t understand that we’re a volunteer fire department and we need all the help we can get,” said Dreby.