BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ The First Responders Appreciation Night held this week at the Liberty Corner Firehouse brought together those who show up when residents or others find themselves in the middle of an emergency in the township _ and some thankful recipients of that care also attended.
The event, held on Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Liberty Corner firehouse, is the second First Responder Appreciation night, which was first brought about in 2016 by resident Janice Fields. About 100 police officers and volunteer firefighters and first aid squad members for Liberty Corner and Basking Ridge organizations were treated to dinner and gift baskets as well as attending a ceremony in their honor.
The first responders also received heartfelt thanks from some residents they had assisted in a time of need.
Resident Rhushang Mehta recalled before the crowd the day he was home alone on Sept. 28, 2018, experimenting with a project he had seen on YouTube that was an attempt to use a microwave transformer to burn a design into wood.
The project suddenly went horribly wrong and he found himself experiencing a severe electric shock.
Mehta said when he managed to finally dial 9-1-1, township Patrol Officer Phil Jasina was the first on the scene.
He said he said he relied on Jasina's calm demeanor until the later arrival of multiple first responders, including the fire department and the ambulance carrying emergency medical technicians. "Everyone took care of what they needed to do," Mehta said.
Mehta said the reassurance of first responders helped him stay calm in aftermath of the accident, which led to multiple surgeries. He lost a finger, and has scars on both hands, but he added that he and his family and all okay. "When you protect me, you protect them," he said of his family.
'You are an incredible group of people'
"You are an incredible group of people, and I am forever indebted to what you do," Mehta told the gathered group.
Several people spoke of the compassion showed by the first responders when answering calls.
Another of the speakers, Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson, who also is a longtime Basking Ridge resident, said when called, the first responders made a family member as comfortable as possible on the way to the hospital.
"What we heard about tonight was the empathy and kindnesss that you show towards others," said state Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-District 21). "You don't just do your jobs...you give of yourselves."
Deputy Mayor James Baldassare Jr. read from an old clip that detailed how his own father had 50 years before managed to save a young resident who had been rendered unconscious by smoke inhalation in his burning home.
Baldassare said that in those days, volunteer firefighters responded to the fire whistle, and the communications of a Plectron receiver on the top of the refrigerator. "But I am sure that families here can relate to someone running out in the middle of the night," he added, with a loved one urging them to be careful.
Fields herself _ who chaired the event, working with police Corp. Ray Gizienski and former Liberty Corner Fire Chief Peter Aprahamian _ said that the idea was partly the result of her gratitude to the firefighters who responded when her own mother was caught in a fatal fire in another New Jersey community. "It's important we give back," she said.
Mayor Carol Bianchi, who opened the ceremony, was also mayor at the time of the first event in 2016.
Accepting resolutions of thanks from state officials, along with county and township officials, were Bernards Township Police Chief Michael Shimsky, Ron DePasquale, Liberty Corner Fire Chief, Fred Miller, Captain of the Liberty Corner First Aid Squad, Jody Jacobus, 2nd Lieutenant, Basking Ridge First Aid Squad, and Mike Delgado former chief of the Basking Ridge Fire Company.
The ceremony also recognized Charlotte Meiner-Flohl, a volunteer member of the Liberty Corner first aid squad for 45 years.
The appreciation night was made possible through donations of multiple sponsors and other contributors.
Sponsors included Verizon, Affinity Federal Credit Union, the Basking Ridge Business Alliance, the Basking Ridge Indian Community, Computer Sharp, Walter Pardo of Wealth Financial Partners, and Rica Builders.