This past Saturday I attended the fire department's Installation Luncheon at Russo's on the Bay in Howard Beach. The installation serves as a torch passing event, a ritual that ceremoniously marks the changing of leadership. Frank Wakely Jr., Floral Park's new chief, noted that he is the fifth father-son combination to become chief and on four other occasions two brothers had served as chief of the Department. Enchanted, I thought that one day there might even be a father-daughter combination.
Our fire department has truly become a proud family tradition, equally conscious of its noble heritage as it is of forging an honorable continuity. Indeed, the fire department is itself a community, a family of shared ideals whose ties immeasurably strengthen the fabric of our village. It is only by reaching beyond the circle of blood ties, enlarging our obligations to include the greater community that we will bind ourselves ever more closely together to discover new opportunities to shape our common future.
No group does this better than the fire department; but we, the residents, are also part of this family by saluting their dedication for which it is as much bound, as it is elevated, by our gratitude. This marriage between our residents and those who serve is one and the same; it is indivisible, a thread that cannot be unraveled without putting asunder what Abraham Lincoln called the "better angels of our nature."
I sought to convey this in my remarks, inadequately no doubt, about the tie that connects us by simply feeling gratitude to volunteers whose civic duty requires a continued and uninterrupted vigilance. Since awareness presupposes gratitude, is it possible to develop an understanding for another's vocation, even profoundly so, without experiencing it directly such as, in this instance, being a member of the fire department.
Put aside for the moment the grander applications of that proposition as it relates to the scheme of human emotions, such as grief, loneliness, falling in love or the birth of one's first child. Those things in order to be communicable must surely be personally experienced.
But there are vicarious experiences that are intimately relevant, and just as one can appreciate great music without being a great musician you can, in the same way, appreciate the heroic deeds of our fire department by just being, as I was, an eyewitness.
I forget when it had exactly dawned on me; certainly the impression sunk in gradually. But when it did the realization hit me with enormous force, and it has never ever, ever left me. The plain truth is that being in the fire department is very, very serious business. It must be so, for by its very nature it is a life-giving and life-saving force.
Teamwork is one of the great experiences of life and no one exemplifies its ideal with more grace than the Floral Park Fire Department. I imagine, like in the vale of every other human enterprise, there are harbored resentments, jealousies, likes and dislikes of persons and personalities. But when that call for help comes, as it inevitably does, their singular response and expression of unity is the closest thing we have in this village to an act of pure transcendence.
This is our Centennial year and as we celebrate the past, we live for the future. The future, as the song goes, is not ours to see. We do, however, have one sublime compensation: While we don't know what our future brings we know what we bring to the future and that is the men and women in our Floral Park Fire Department who defend and protect us and that is, my dear readers, a mighty comforting thought.
So as I embark on my fourth year as mayor in the 100th year of our village I extend not only my respects, but on behalf of the entire village, our deep and everlasting gratitude.
It is with great pride that I recognize, albeit belatedly yet no less fervently, that Mary-Grace Tomecki was a recipient of the 2008 Women Trailblazers in the "New Millennium Award" presented by the Nassau County Legislature in celebration of National Women's History Month in recognition of her commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.
Mary-Grace, who is only the third woman elected to public office in the history of Floral Park, follows former Mayor Ann Corbett in receiving this prestigious award. The "New Millennium Award" was presented to Trustee Tomecki by Legislator Rich Nicolello, who nominated her for the award, along with legislator Vincent Muscarella, during Reorganization Night at Village Hall April 7.
Mary-Grace is a long admirer of Susan B. Anthony, who along with her fellow-suffragette, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, pioneered the women's movement, which eventually led, in 1920, to the passage of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. That was a long and hard road that was trekked, which led not only to women's suffrage but also the right for women, like Trustee Tomecki, to serve in elected public office.
Mary-Grace, who is honest, hardworking, intelligent and community minded will, I am sure, blaze many more trails in the course of her already distinguished career. Congratulations on a very noteworthy and proud achievement.
Recently, I paid a visit to Max, Floral Park's beloved bulldog, who wowed the crowd at the pet fashion show to win first prize for best original costume. During the show Max was as playful as a kitten with just about everyone yet when I, the mayor, posed for a picture with him you may recall I thought he was a bit standoffish and said so. I didn't know if he was upset about the taxes or what.
Well it was all a misunderstanding, and when I came to the door of the Pizzurro residence, Max greeted me like a long, lost friend. I was quite overwhelmed by his gentleness and display of affection. Bulldogs may look tough but their temperament is both sweet and ingratiating. Suffice it to say that Max is the reason families get dogs.
I'm sure Max will be a great companion to the Pizzurro family for years to come. In fact, to commemorate the occasion Max and I took another picture together this time with three of his proud owners, the delightful Pizzurro children.
When I finally took leave of Max at around 5:30 p.m., I could not help but think it was a good day; it always is when you find a loyal friend.