Iron Fire­man re­turns to Tren­ton City Hall

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By LA Parker la­parker@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @LAParker6 on Twit­ter L.A. Parker is a Tren­to­nian colum­nist.

A mon­u­ment that hon­ored Mercer County fallen fire­fight­ers for more than 125 years be­fore be­ing van­dal­ized and de­stroyed re­turns Sun­day as Mayor Reed Gus­ciora hosts a reded­i­ca­tion of the statue.

The 2 p.m. cer­e­mony oc­curs out­side City Hall at 319 East State St. and will in­clude his­tory mak­ers, politi­cians and nu­mer­ous fire­fight­ers, their fam­ily mem­bers and friends. It’s a day for recol­lec­tions and open­ing his­tory vaults.

Act­ing Fire Di­rec­tor Steve Coltre thought back al­most 25 years and re­mem­bered a spe­cial visit he made to the East State St. bronze Iron Fire­man fig­ure.

“I re­mem­ber my first day out of the Acad­emy,” re­called Coltre about his 1992 ar­rival as a city fire­fighter. “Capt. Jeff Gore took us to that statue to in­still in us the sense of brother­hood that fire­fight­ers have and to con­nect us with all the valiant men who came be­fore us.”

Coltre called the visit a pow­er­ful mo­ment, one that still re­mains vivid as he and other fire­fight­ers per­form the pub­lic ser­vice of their well-re­spected pro­fes­sion.

“From that day for­ward,” con­tin­ued Coltre, “we con­tinue the his­tory of brother­hood and tra­di­tion of be­ing fire­fight­ers. That statue rep­re­sents the ideals of com­mit­ted ser­vice promised by city, county and fire­fight­ers through­out the coun­try. So, yes, hav­ing the statue pre­sented again af­ter it had been van­dal­ized and busted up in 2013, it’s a spe­cial day. It’s nice that the statue is fi­nally re­turn­ing to a spe­cial place in front of City Hall.”

The statue ar­rived in 1892 in front of the old City Hall on East State Street and Broad Street. The orig­i­nal mon­u­ment stood atop a wa­ter foun­tain for pedes­tri­ans and wa­ter trough for horses. The fire­man found a new res­i­dence in 1910 as City Hall moved to East State St.

April 2013 rep­re­sented an ex­tremely low point in city his­tory when a man who will never have his name pre­sented in any ar­ti­cle here, top­pled the statue..

The fire­fighter me­mo­rial fea­tured a large stone base with plaques that hon­ored ev­ery city and county fire­fighter who had given his life on the job. The cast iron statue of a fire­fighter, dressed in the 19th Cen­tury uni­form of the city’s for­mer vol­un­teer fire brigade, and hold­ing a baby de­liv­ered a pow­er­ful mes­sage.

Any­one can imag­ine the hurt felt by fire­fight­ers, their fam­i­lies and peo­ple who hold their pro­fes­sion in such high re­gard af­ter the de­struc­tive in­ci­dent, es­pe­cially with a fire­fighter mis­sion state­ment that com­mits brave men and women “to pro­vid­ing the fullest mea­sure pos­si­ble of fire and emer­gency ser­vices to the cit­i­zens of Tren­ton, and on a mu­tual aid ba­sis to the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties. This ser­vice shall be pro­vided with the ut­most pro­fes­sion­al­ism, re­spect, and com­pas­sion, with the in­tent of im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life and safety of all cit­i­zens of our city.”

“I don’t re­call ex­actly where I was that day but I re­mem­ber this feel­ing in­side of my (gut). Some­thing like that hap­pens? It takes a lit­tle bit out of you,” Coltre said.

No doubt. So, to­day’s event of­fers an op­por­tu­nity for not only the re­in­stal­la­tion of a statue but also the chance to honor fire­fight­ers who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice and those who boot up know­ing the dan­ger­ous po­ten­tial for any alarm.

It’s ex­actly what Coltre signed on for while grow­ing up on Hancock St. Coltre had op­tions.

“I took both tests for the Tren­ton Po­lice De­part­ment and the Fire De­part­ment and for­tu­nately did very well on each. In the end, I just had to make the de­ci­sion be­tween be­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer or fire­fighter. Bot­tom line, I al­ways knew that I wanted a life of ser­vice to the City of Tren­ton,” Coltre ex­plained.

Mem­o­ries abound as Mayor Reed Gus­ciora and Coltre will be ac­com­pa­nied by Ethel Collins and Lisa McNeese for the Iron Fire­man un­veil­ing. Collins at­tends as the widow of the late Lyn­wood Collins, Tren­ton’s first African Amer­i­can fire­fighter.

McNeese joins the spe­cial cer­e­mony as the city’s first African Amer­i­can fe­male fire­fighter.

“It took a lit­tle time to get the statue back, took some money but guys like Chief John Gribben and for­mer Fire Di­rec­tor Den­nis Keenan al­ways promised the Iron Fire­man would re­turn. He’s fi­nally back home,” Coltre said.

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