The sun shone down on the seats in front of the South Orange firehouse on Saturday, when everyone in the vicinity expected rain. That's a good thing, considering the long-awaited rededication ceremony needed to be an outdoor event. The restored firehouse and new engines were blessed and celebrated during the ceremony.
To get things started, Fire Chief Jeff Markey introduced Monsignor Robert Meyer to give the invocation. Casey Buckley then sang the national anthem. Chief Markey then asked for a moment of silence, in honor of New Jersey State Trooper Marc Castellano, whose funeral was held on Saturday. (Trooper Castellano was struck and killed by a car on Route 195 in Howell, N.J., while assisting in a manhunt last Wednesday.)
Chief Markey then spoke of the firehouse, completed in 1926: "One of the things that the village of South Orange has always been known for is its architecture." The chief said that the firehouse was designed with a modernism that is similar to many of the residences in the village, and that it became a favorite site for artists and architects.
The restoration of the façade and renovation of the inside took "a little longer" than expected, joked Chief Markey. The work on the building took so long in fact, that firefighters were headquartered in trailers for approximately seven years.
"It became old quite fast," said Markey. "Time passed and they persevered. Not once did the officers and firefighters of the South Orange Fire Department fail in their service to the residents of South Orange during this time. I salute them."
Congressman Bill Pascrell took the podium and joked that when you're a congressman, you are called many names. He said, though, that a name he is proud to be labeled with is the "Congressman for first responders." Pascrell explained that, to him, that's "what it's all about, one of my top priorities, and I hope my actions fit my words."
"I am so proud to be in South Orange today," said Pascrell, as he spoke of the consecration of Lt. George Baldwin McCoy's name onto the flagpole earlier in the morning. McCoy, who died while serving in WWI, had previously gone unrecognized on the South Orange monument.
Expressing that a fire department is an integral part of every community, Congressman Pascrell said he wanted to commit himself to communities of first responders. "I'm going to do everything I possibly can, to make sure that we bring every fire department into the 21st century," he said, bringing forth a resounding round of applause. Congressman Pascrell ended his speech by calling the South Orange firehouse "a reflection of the dedication of this town," and telling the crowd of first responders and residents alike, "I salute you, God bless you, and have a wonderful weekend in South Orange!"
The festivities continued with tours, hot dogs and hamburgers inside the firehouse, and an entire day of festivities dedicated to celebrating South Orange.