SOMERVILLE, NJ - The tap, tap, tap of a snare drum punctuated each step.
Mayor Brian Gallagher and members of the Borough Council, escorted by the officers of the borough’s fire department and accompanied by a drummer from the Somerset County Police Pipes & Drums, filed alongside dozens of firefighters and rescue squad members Saturday afternoon at the borough’s annual Firemen’s Inspection.
The Firemen’s Inspection is steeped in tradition, and required by law, according to Gallagher. A borough ordinance requires that the governing body inspect the borough’s firefighters and equipment once each year to ensure their readiness, he said.
Dressed in full dress uniforms and wearing white gloves, the firefighters stood at attention in front of their trucks parked alongside Borough Hall on West Main Street. A bright afternoon sun glinted off the polished chrome and red fenders of Rescue 5, a 1942 fire engine with open cab that used to answer the call in Somerville. Now retired, Rescue 5 is the pride and joy of retired firefighter Richard O’Neill; the engine is used only in parades and other special events.
A ceremony at the Firemen Memorial on the lawn of Borough Hall preceded the inspection. The bell, which used to be rung to summon volunteers firefighters for duty, was cast in 1910 and bears the name of Mayor Charles Kenyon and Fire Chief Charles Hagstead. A bronze life-size figure of a firefighter holding a rescued child in his arms stands atop the bell housing.
Father Ron Pollock, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church and chaplain of the Somerville Fire Department for 19 years, reflected on the tradition.
“More than 50 years ago, the citizens of Somerville recognized the valor of their volunteer firefighters. They dedicated a monument on the lawn of the Borough Hall to remember them. The dedication and service given over the years so that others may be safe must always be remembered,” he said.
“We gather together to honor and pray in thanksgiving for the firefighters in Somerville who have served in the past, for those who now currently serve and for those who will certainly come after us, for their unparalleled courage and faithful dedication working in our community.”
The Somerset County Police Pipes & Drums closed the ceremony with “Amazing Grace.”
A memorial wreath was placed alongside the Memorial afterwards.
The firefighters and rescue personnel made their way to their trucks for a parade down Main Street, led by Rescue 5 with O’Neill at the wheel. The line of march paused at the borough’s 9-11 Memorial at the corner of Main Street and North Bridge Street for a short ceremony honoring the firefighters who perished in the collapse of the World Trade Centers in New York City.
The parade continued on East Main Street past the reviewing stand, with Gallagher and members of the borough council saluting the firefighters.