WAYNE, NJ – Sunday, October 6 was National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service Day, marking the first day of National Fire Prevention Week. It was the perfect day for Wayne to choose to re-dedicate the Glenn E. McCoog Fallen Fighter Memorial which had recently been moved onto the Wayne Public Library grounds, near the 9/11 Remembrance Park.
Members from Wayne’s five fire companies, including their five chiefs, Wayne Fire Commissioner, Bob Minarick, Mayor Chris Vergano, Town Council representatives Rich Jasterzbski and Aileen Rivera, members of the Wayne Police Department and Wayne residents came together on Sunday at noon to dedicate the memorial, to memorialize the four Wayne firefighters that had died in the line of duty, as well as memorialize all firefighters throughout the country who gave their lives while responding to the call.
Minarick welcomed the crowd who encircled the new memorial, then introduced P.O.L. Fire Company #2 Chaplain, the Reverend Karyn Ratchliffe led the opening prayer.
Vergano spoke after the prayer: “There are no words to express the gratitude and appreciation that I have for our fallen firefighters. They committed their lives to safeguarding our community and paid the ultimate price. I am proud to honor their memories with the dedication of the Glenn E. McCoog Fallen Firefighter Memorial. It is an important reminder to our Township residents, as well as all Passaic County citizens, of their selfless acts of courage and heroism!”
Three of the four Wayne fallen firefighters were members of Fire Company #2 and their Chief, Steve Toth spoke next: “Disaster struck Company #2 in February of 1924, just two years after the fire company evolved.” Firefighters Valentine Reder and Peter Van Ammers were the first to fall in the town of Wayne, having both perished when the apparatus they were riding on rolled over while responding to a call.
Glenn E. McCoog, for whom the Wayne Fallen Firefighter Memorial was named, died in 1983. “Fire Company #2 responded to a house fire within the flood zone in which there was a report of people trapped inside,” said Toth. “A malfunction in one of our boats caused it to become disabled leaving four of our firefighters in the raging river current. Three of these firefighters clung to a steel highway bridge until being rescued, unfortunately the current took one of our brothers. Firefighter Glenn McCoog was only 25 years old at the time of his death.”
Pompton Falls Fire Company #3 Chief Tony Czapka spoke next, speaking about former Fire Commisssioner Glen “Galdo” Galderisi, who died on February 4, 2004 after suffering a heart attack on return from a house fire while repacking the hose on the fire truck.
Then Passaic County Pipes and Drums Band played a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace for a silent, mourning gathering.
“Today we remember and honor the Four Wayne Firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their own lives to help their fellow citizens during a time of need,” said Fire Commissioner Bob Minarick during his closing speech.
“Firefighters Peter Van Ammers, Valentine Reder, Glen McCoog and Ex-Commissioner Glen Galderisi never thought they wouldn’t be going home to dinner that night. Never thought they wouldn’t get to put their head on their pillow that night and they didn’t imagine they would never get that welcome home kiss from a loved one or a family member ever again.
“We are a special family who at times fight like brothers and sisters, continued Minarick. “Who compete with each other as siblings do. And when we can we enjoy the time spent hanging out with each other. We are Firefighters. We do this job because we love it! We, and our families, accept the consequences of our profession for better or worse. Please pray for the safety of all Firefighters and also for the souls of those of us who have died.”