PATERSON, NJ - Though they never served with, or knew them, Paterson’s 33 newest firefighters started their careers Monday by recognizing their fallen brothers. In a powerful statement Class 2019-01 stood shoulder to shoulder reciting each name of the members of the Paterson Fire Department lost in the line of duty.
Moments later, with hundreds of family and friends looking on, the diverse class of 31 men and 2 women raised their right hands and gave their oath to serve Paterson, protecting the city from dangers most are seeking to flee from.
“You are role models every time you answer the call,” Mayor Andre Sayegh told them. “People are looking for you to lead, to have a positive impact on those you serve.
Welcoming the newest members of the Department that he leads, Chief Brian McDermott encouraged the probationary firefighters to first applaud their loved ones that had gathered, thanking them for the sacrifices that come with having a husband, son, wife, or daughter in the fire service.
“Discipline is so important,” McDermott said before saying that through togetherness and unity, and by relying on their extensive training, each can expect to have long and healthy careers.
Speaking from 33 years experience, recently retired Paterson Firefighter Luis Vega, who was honored with the naming of PFD vehicle in his honor, put the new firefighters on notice that they should consider the weeks they spent in the Passaic County Fire Academy a “warmup.”
“The real training starts tomorrow,” Vega said, foreshadowing to their first shifts in firehouses across Paterson. “You will be asked to do things you never saw in a book, you will learn to adapt and improvise until the job is done.”
Reflecting on the prior words of McDermott regarding their standing in the community as firefighters, Paterson FMBA Local 2 President Kyle Hughes encouraged his new colleagues to “wave to every child who waves to you, to help elderly cross the road.”
It’s these random acts of kinds, beyond the emergency service they will perform, that will also make an impact on the community, he told them.
“I can’t explain it until you experience it yourself,” Hughes said with emotion, “How gratifying it is to help others that can’t help themselves.”
Offering his advice on growing into the job Hughes suggested that “when duty calls do your best to always strive to do better.”
The strongest words of the ceremony that included comments from Congressman Bill Pascrell, Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale, and City Council President Martiza Davilla, came, perhaps, from Jamar J. Rouse.
Elected by his peers to serve as the recruit’s class president, Rouse turned to Chief McDermott and acknowledged that “we still have to prove ourselves,” before offering a confident “guarantee” that all 33 will. We are “one team, one fight,” he said.
“We are a new generation of firefighters,” he continued, adding that their class motto, reflecting the makeup of the recruits that included those with African American, Latino, and Arabic lineage, was “diverse but the same.”
“This is what our community is all about.”
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