Four hours into a flight that was supposed to take them to Hawaii for a friend’s wedding, Jersey City police officers Paul Fennel and Robert Taino Jr. were confronted with a man who had clearly gone berserk and was lunging towards the cockpit. They grabbed him and held him until the plane made a landing and the man was taken into custody.
For this act of bravery, both officers were given Valor Awards at this year’s 200 Club of Hudson County luncheon on April 25.
Union City police officer Michael McLean was on duty alone in April, 2011, when a man ran up to him shouting “Pistola, pistola. He’s got a gun,” referring to another man running down Bergenline Avenue. McLean leaped out of his car and gave chase, telling the gunman to get down on the ground. But the runner whirled around instead and reached for his waistband and the shiny handle of a gun.
McLean fired first, wounded the man and caused the pistol fall free of the gunman’s grip. His heroic action in the face of a life-threatening situation also won him a Valor Award.
“Although we honored these people here today, they represent all those who put their lives on the live for us every day.” – Mickey McCabe/big>
People from around Hudson County gathered at the Liberty House in Jersey City on April 25 to pay tribute to those who risked their lives in doing their duty.
In truth, the men and women honored at the annual 200 Club of Hudson County Valor Awards luncheons simply reflect what goes on day in and day out with those who serve throughout Hudson County. By paying tribute to these few, the club honors all those who do their jobs without fanfare.
“Although we honored these people here today, they represent all those who put their lives on the live for us every day,” said Mickey McCabe, founder of McCabe Ambulance and founding member of the 200 Club of Hudson County.
The club was established in 1984 and is one of 15 clubs statewide which acknowledge the achievements of law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians for heroic acts that go behind the call of duty.
McCabe said that the 200 Club takes nominations from a number of sources, which are then evaluated by a Valor Award Committee.
“They look at each and choose which ones to award,” he said. “It is very competitive.”
The club also plays another very important role in the lives of public safety workers and first responders. If someone dies in the line of duty, a club provides money for the family to get through the grieving period, providing them with whatever they need. One police widow had very little money in the family account when her husband died.
“We give thousands with no strings attached,” McCabe said. “These deaths are always unexpected, and they pose a significant burden on the families. Fortunately, no officer died in the line of the duty in 2011.”
Community leaders show pride
Although no police, fire or EMT personnel from Bayonne were honored this year, Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith made an appearance.
“This is a noble cause and these people deserved to be honored,” Smith said. “And for every one of them there are others doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy said he had come to pay tribute to those who performed a vital duty in the community.
“Their service makes Jersey City a safer place to live in,” Healy said.
Former Jersey City Assemblywoman Joan Quigley said she came to this event yearly.
“I’m proud of the police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians that keep the rest of us safe,” she said. “Events likes this make us all more aware of the danger these people face when they go into a situation.”
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said the firefighters of the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue provide a valuable service to the residents of his town and the other towns of North Hudson.
“These people are there to provide us with a level of comfort we need,” he said.
Guttenberg Mayor David Drafsheff paid tribute to those who were honored, saying that in the past his town relied on volunteer services, but that the NHRFR has provided a good level of service to the city.
Others honored with team valor awards
Valiant Teamwork awards were given to firefighters from North Hudson Regional Fire, Rescue Captains Patrick Cospito and James McDonough, and firefighters Richard Gora and Thomas Haemmerl for rescuing a woman trapped in a burning building.
McDonough and Gora, beyond the protection of their hose line, went into the fire with zero visibility and toxic smoke, forcing their way into closed rooms while other firefighters kept the stairway clear. One of the fire captains reported seeing the woman at a third floor window. Haemmerl broke the window, climbed into the building and rescued the woman before flames engulfed the room. While he and the woman got out, the other firefighters had to make their way to the roof to escape.
Jersey City police sergeants Thomas McVicar and Anthony Tedesco and Jersey City Police officers Dwayne Dowell, Peter Hillburn, George Nesbett, Thomas O’Connor and Gregory Yurchack Jr. were also awarded Valiant Teamwork awards.
On a cold night in January, 2011, a man was reported pointing a gun at passing cars. When the man saw the officers, he fired at the police car. Taking cover, other cars arrived and surrounded him, ordering him to drop the gun. The man looked like he would, but then fired on them again, at which point the officers opened fire and wounded him, and later placed him under arrest.
Jersey City firefighters Thomas Facciola and Howard Hayes, and Jersey City police officers Steven Collier, Nicholas Geradi, Christopher Koszyk and Wayne Ziachowski were giving Valiant Teamwork awards.
Koszyk and Ziachowski caught sight of a fire in an abandoned building and with the help of Collier and Gerald broke into the building and found a man sleeping inside, and then another man and a woman on the second floor they had to carry out. Facciola and Hayes, who arrived on the fire truck, ran into the burning building in search of others and later found another man inside.
Jersey City police officers John Antman, John Curtis, Christopher Lefante, and John Trynor were given a Valiant Teamwork Award for their actions in subduing a heavily armed man who had taken refuge in a basement.