National Night Out unites first responders, residents
Three-year-old twins Bradley and Gavin Sorrentino came to National Night Out dressed for the occasion.
Bradley donned a police uniform, while his brother was wearing firefighter gear. With their mom, Erica, they delighted in watching a demonstration of the Newark Police Department K-9 unit. A few minutes later, Bradley met Ofc. Aaron Olicker, of “Hug a Cop” video fame, and got to check out the SWAT officers’ tools.
“They’re big fans of police and firefighters,” Erica said.
The Sorrentinos were three of the hundreds of people who turned out Tuesday night for the second-annual local observance of National Night Out on Academy Street. Nationwide, more than 16,000 communities participated in the outreach effort, which began in 1981.
Joining forces for the Newark event was the Newark Police Department, University of Delaware Police Department, Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Co. and the University of Delaware Emergency Care Unit.
Newark Police Chief Paul Tiernan said the festival is a great way for police to connect with residents, and in light of recent tension between police and community members elsewhere in the country, took on even more meaning this year.
“We’ve been getting tremendous support the past few weeks, and tonight people are coming up, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service,” Tiernan said. “This is a great way to give back and show appreciation for the support.”
At Tuesday’s event, police officers grilled up hot dogs for visitors, while others demonstrated SWAT equipment, forensics tools and the department’s mobile command center. Meanwhile, Aetna let kids climb inside fire engines, and firefighters performed a mock vehicle extrication, using tools to cut the roof off a car like they would at an accident scene.
Aetna Assistant Chief Patrick Fleming was pleased with the event.
“We got to get out, get in touch with the community and show them what we do and what tools we have to save them if we have to,” Fleming said.
James Muzzi, 4, had fun checking out the fire engines, climbing into Aetna’s ladder truck as well as Rescue 8, which carries the specialized equipment used when firefighters respond to car accidents and other rescue situations.
His mom, Stacey, said they came out “to support the community.”
Deanna Hall brought her 2-year-old daughter, Krislyn Pate, to the event so she could meet first responders up close.
“I wanted her to just get familiar with cops and firefighters in case she needs them,” Hall said.
It took a little convincing, but Krislyn eventually hugged Olicker and posed for a photo.
Sitting on a Newark Police Department motorcycle as Cpl. Patrick Craig instructed him in the proper riding technique, 6-year-old Ryan Andrews said his favorite part of National Night Out was the bounce house, followed closely by getting to meet one of NPD’s four-legged officers.
“I saw a police dog,” Ryan said, proudly.
The motorcycles were popular with 2-year-old Teddy Nagorski, as well.
“Teddy rode them three times,” his father, Mike, said. He added that the event provided a nice “positive way” to interact with law enforcement.
Yolanda Davis wore a smile a mile wide as she tried on the heavy SWAT uniform.
“I’m enjoying everything,” the Main Towers resident said. “I’m learning a lot. Police are not that bad.”
But, she said, she won’t be rushing to join SWAT anytime soon.
“Maybe if I was like 30 years younger,” Davis said, laughing.
Still, she was having fun checking out the gear.
“I’ll be 70 this year, and I’m still a kid,” she said. “I will never grow up, and I don’t want to.”
Three-year-old twins Gavin and Bradley Sorrentino meet Ofc. Aaron Olicker.
Krislyn Pate, 2, hugs Ofc. Aaron Olicker.
Yolanda Davis tries on the heavy SWAT uniform.
James Muzzi, 8, checks out the cab of Aetna Hose Hook and Ladder Company’s Rescue 8.
Aetna Capt. Rich Werkmeister demonstrates how firefighters rescue an injured driver from a car crash.
Ofc. Nate Graber shows off some of the equipment he uses with the SWAT unit.