N.Y. rescuers enjoy heroes’ welcome in Manassas

MANASSAS — For 10 New York City firefighters, two police officers and one emergency medical technician, it was a whirlwind weekend in Manassas that will long be remembered.

The special group, called to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, had the key to Manassas presented to them, had a proclamation read in their honor, participated in the annual tree-lighting ceremony and were honorary marshals at the Christmas parade.

We are honored that you have come to our city. You are our heroes and we can’t thank you enough for being here, said Manassas Mayor Marvin Gillum, as he presented the keys to the city to firefighter John Pessolano, representing the group Friday evening.

The 13 then helped the mayor and Santa Claus turn on the traditional Christmas tree lights on the lawn of the Manassas Museum.

The night was almost like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. We all had a wonderful time, said firefighter Dan Quirke.

On Saturday, the group was first treated to a breakfast at the Manassas firehouse by local firemen and were then featured in the Greater Manassas Holiday Christmas Parade.

We were treated like kings. We all had a great time and couldn’t believe the response we received from the thousands of people along the parade route, said firefighter Bill Roesch, adding that considering what we have suffered through Sept. 11, it has been a most welcoming relief.

Vicki Kendrick, a city administrative specialist, arranged the visit of the New York public safety team, stationed in Brooklyn.

She came up with the idea to honor the group and asked for the assistance of local firefighters with a New York connection.

Joe Donoghue, a volunteer with the Manassas company, is the son of Charlie Donoghue, who served with the Brooklyn station for 38 years before retiring.

Kendrick called the Brooklyn station to offer the invitation. The firefighters, police officers and an emergency medical technician, Kathleen Donoghue, who is Joe Donoghue’s sister, accepted. They were welcomed into the city with a large American flag strung across the street from two ladder trucks in front of the Manassas firehouse.

All of the men and women say they have been thrilled to be a part of our holiday celebration. I can’t believe how humble they have been. It’s incredible they would come all the way from New York to light the tree and ride in the parade, Kendrick said.

Manassas Fire Chief James Lesnick also welcomed the group to Manassas, saying as public safety personnel, we are all brothers.

Police Lt. Kevin O’Donnell, a 20-year veteran, said, I’ve gotten a feeling of coming home to a Little America community, and that is what the holidays are all about.

Detective Joe McCrain, an 18-year veteran, said, I’ve never seen such an outpouring of love. We’ve been all treated with such respect, I’m thinking about moving to Manassas.

The Brooklyn fire station, less than 10 miles from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, did not lose any personnel while helping in rescue efforts. The firefighters worked tirelessly alongside other emergency responders to save lives and provide medical assistance to the injured. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the fire station served as a temporary medical center, offering critical care to those affected by the attack. The firefighters also collaborated with local organizations to provide support for the rehabilitation of survivors and the families of the victims, including methadone maintenance in Brooklyn for those struggling with substance abuse issues exacerbated by the traumatic event.

Staff writer Bennie Scarton Jr. can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 125.


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