The Examiner

Newtown’s Sandy Hook Firefighters Honored at P’ville Fire Dept. Parade

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Members of the Sandy Hook Fire and Rescue Company were honored in Pleasantville last week.
Members of the Sandy Hook Fire and Rescue Company were honored in Pleasantville last week.

A volunteer fire service that has probably seen more tragedy during the past six months than any other was honored as guests during the Pleasantville Fire Department parade last Friday evening.

A contingent of about a dozen members from the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company, the department that serves the Village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., marched in this year’s event May 31, giving additional meaning to what has become a proud tradition in the village. The Sandy Hook firefighters responded to one of the worst school shootings in American history, in which 26 people were killed, including 20 children, last Dec. 14.

With a common connection between the Pleasantville and Sandy Hook departments, the village’s firefighters were able to welcome the Sandy Hook contingent to its first parade in New York in about 15 years. Pleasantville Fire Chief Manny Colmenares was happy to welcome them.

“We like to give them the recognition for all they did in a situation that was a tough situation. Hope to God we never have to experience anything similar to that,” Colmenares said. “But what they did, how they operated and how they handled the situation is exemplary to the way the volunteer fire service works.”

The common thread between the two villages is firefighter Randy Muller. Muller serves in the Sandy Hook Company and is still a support member in Pleasantville. The main station in Sandy Hook is located near the now closed elementary school.

Kevin Stowak, an assistant chief with the Sandy Hook department, said he and his fellow firefighters were honored to be part of the parade. The support the department has received throughout the country has been tremendous. People still stop by the station to express gratitude, he said.

Stowak, along with the rest of the firefighters who came to Pleasantville for last week’s parade, noticed the loud ovations for a department that continues its return to normalcy.

“It was nice to hear that,” Stowak said, “for people to support us like that.”

Millwood Fire Company No. 1 Chief Greg Santone said it was an excellent idea inviting and honoring a group of volunteers that faced unspeakable tragedy.

“I think many departments have experienced difficult times,” Santone said. “But to that magnitude, I guess I can’t really imagine.”

Aside from the Sandy Hook volunteers, close to 30 departments from around the region took part in the festivities. Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer and the rest of the village board marched. Additionally, state Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, Westchester County Legislator Michael Smith and County Executive Rob Astorino were on hand.

The grand marshal was John Brooks, a department commissioner and a 38-year member. The Brooks family has had three generations that have dedicated themselves to the Pleasantville Fire Department; Brooks’ father was a volunteer and so is his son. His wife is also part of the auxiliary fire service in the village.

While Brooks admitted being driven in a car and waving to people was “a little embarrassing,” the longtime member said he enjoyed the experience.

And Colmenares said Brooks was an excellent choice to lead the parade.

“He’s one of our number-one, go-to guys here,” Colmenares said. “He’s everything. Everything that needs to be done, you go to John. It’s about time we do honor him, and he deserves it.”






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