Both responding police officers and firefighters worked in professional unison to accomplish their objectives on the morning of May 11th at the Helmer's Café fire and a catastrophic loss of life and threatened properties was averted.
On this day Mayor David Roberts arrived on scene shortly after the fire was brought under control and all the lives threatened were out of harm's way and the injured police officer and firefighter were hospitalized. The Mayor made it a point to work his way through the public safety personnel on scene, thanking and congratulating all the firefighters for a job well done.
I don't have a problem with this sort of display of appreciation from our Mayor; as a matter of fact, I encourage and welcome this outward display of gratitude and respect.
However, what I do have a problem with and find most disrespectful and reprehensible is the fact that Mayor Roberts chose to acknowledge and thank only the firefighters on scene and completely ignored or thanked the police officers present.
What the Mayor failed to appreciate is what your police officers did that morning and the risks they took while in the performance of their duties. The police officers arriving first on scene were PO Edward Lepre, PO Leonard Cattaneo, PO Juan Madera, PO Marco Grossman and PO Danilo Cabrera. Upon their immediate arrival they were met by several terrified residents who managed to frantically evacuate the burning building and their hysterical cries, "There are still people in there!" Upon hearing this all the officers entered the heavily smoked filled burning building and ascended to the second floor and began to check the apartments for people unaware or trapped. They heard a woman's screams from above them and attempted to ascend to the third floor but were beaten back down by the intense heat, flames and choking smoke. The screaming woman was later rescued from the burning building's fire escape. PO Cattaneo suffered smoke inhalation and was rushed to the hospital. Once outside, the remaining officers, under the direction of Lt. Rutkowski were sent in two person teams to evacuate the adjoining residential buildings. Officers entering these heavily smoked filled buildings banged on apartment doors and yelled "Fire" to awaken, alert and evacuate the residents. While choking on smoke they systematically went to each and every apartment and managed to evacuate all the residents. Some of whom were asleep and not aware of the toxic smoke, had the officers not taken action. In all, approximately 40 people were alerted and safely evacuated from their buildings due to the courageous and valiant efforts of the police officers mentioned.
As for Mayor Roberts, we don't expect his praise, nor should I have to remind him of our duties and the risks we take. We are here to Protect and Serve the citizens of this Great City and shall continue to do so regardless of who our elected officials are and how inappropriately they behave. I commend all of our police officers who performed most heroically on this tragic morning and our firefighter brothers, who courageously battled the blaze and prevented its spread.
Respectfully yours, Vincent T. Lombardi, President Hoboken Policemen's Benevolent Association