By Ted Waddell
ROCK HILL September 17, 2002 It was a heck of a parade.
Thousands of people lined the streets, cheering, clapping and waving hundreds of American flags as the countys bravest and finest marched to the local firehouse about a mile down the road.
It was a parade that honored the spirit of volunteerism, in which men and women donate their time to serve with local fire departments and EMS squads.
It was a time to remember the effects of 9-11-2001, an event that forever changed the way the nation looked at itself and the world. It was also a time during which many firefighters expressed the opinion it was time to heal, while at the same time never forgetting their fallen brothers and sisters who died a year ago.
The 74th Annual Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters Association (SCVFA) has become a tradition in the county, as firefighters polish up their apparatus and march together in celebration of the local fire service and the communities they valiantly protect 24/7.
The 2002 SCVFA parade was hosted by the Rock Hill Volunteer Fire Department. The Frog Pad had just recently hosted the countywide parade in 1998.
Paul Durland and Chet Smith, both members of the Rock Hill VFD, co-chaired the parade committee.
I loved it! said Durland of the 74th annual parade. Its just over a year after 9/11, and I think its important the community sees us out here every year.
The crowd showed us what 9/11 did, the 15-year firefighter added. Its never been so big.
Martin Schwartz, past president and current chairman of the commissioners of the Rock Hill VFD, served as grand marshal of this years edition of the SCVFA parade.
The parade was divided into four divisions: escort, 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions
Martin Gottlieb, former commissioner of the local department, served as 1st division marshal; Allan Wolkoff, past chief, past president and former commissioner, led the 2nd division as marshal; and Daryl Butch Mitchell, past chief and former commissioner, was honored as 3rd division marshal.
Each division was preceded in the line of march by a color guard: American Legion (escort division), New York State Police (1st division), Sullivan County Sheriffs Department (2nd division) and Boy Scouts (3rd division).
Sullivan County Family Court Judge Mark Meddaugh stepped down from the judicial bench to serve as master of ceremonies for the parade. He was president of the Rock Hill VFD in 1990.
Meddaugh has been a member of the department for 26 years. His sons Josh and Johnathan are active members, and his youngest son Ryan will become a junior firefighter once he turns 16 in January. Meddaughs parents, Clyde and Helen, were active in the local department, which was founded in 1956.
My parents did it before me, and my sons are doing it after me, Meddaugh said of the sense of tradition and dedication that calls men and women to serve their local community by joining the fire/EMS services.
There are no paid firemen in the county, he added. When the alarm sounds, everybody comes together and does a great job. . . . Its a tremendous fellowship.
Reflecting on 9/11, the local judge said the great turnout was a both a tribute to hundreds of fallen firefighters and a way to celebrate the countys fire service.
The anniversary of September 11 brought out thousands of people to remember and give thanks for all the things we have in the fire service, he said.
As the parade marched proudly down the street, booted feet kept crisp cadence with the traditional sounds of the pipes, flutes and drums.
Little kids played in the dirt and waved the nations vibrant colors as their protectors passed by in a seemingly neverending procession of apparatus polished to a glittering finish and shiny badges of honor.
Bob Taggart, chief of the Rock Hill Volunteer Fire Department, said 50 out of 55 active members of his department marched in the annual parade.
It was a beautiful day and a lot of good people, was his take on the parades success.
Commenting on 9/11, Taggart said it touched everybody. . . . Everybody either knows somebody or had a loved one or friend that was involved.
He noted that in the wake of 9/11, membership in the local department has increased significantly.
Its a wonderful day for all our brotherhood and sisterhood to get together and show their support to the community, said John Scanlon of the Smallwood-Mongaup Valley VFD.
Not only do we fight fires, but were a great bunch of guys and gals who hang together. . . . You have 18-year-old guys listening to 80-year-old guys with grey hair passing down their knowledge about fighting fires, he said.
September 11 made us smarter, training for whats going to happen next, he added.
Of course, no firefighters parade would be complete without a dalmatian.
As the parade wound down the towns main drag toward the firehouse, Max, the spotted canine mascot of the Grahamsville Fire Department, entertained the crowd with his spirited antics in search of a fire hydrant.
Just over a year ago, then-SCVFA President Deborah Forsblom wrestled with the decision whether to hold or cancel the 73rd annual parade hosted by the Loch Sheldrake VFD four days after the terrorist attacks.
Despite the controversy, the memorial parade and service became a fitting tribute to the countrys fire service.
I think our community needs the parade on a yearly basis, said the junior past president of the SCVFA. People like to see whats there for them in emergencies.
Forsblom is a 20-year veteran of the Hankins-Fremont Center VFD and was the first female president of the SCVFA.
The firefighters are our heroes, she added.
William Buckmaster, Jr., past president of the SCVFA and current 2nd vice president of the Hudson Valley Volunteer Firemens Association, said it was a beautiful parade.
It was good to see the public show respect and support the volunteers for what we do in the fire service, he said. Rock Hill should be commended for a great job.
The White Lake Volunteer Fire Department was awarded the Blue Ribbon Trophy as the best appearing company in the county.
Asked about the lingering effects of 9/11, Derek Van Wolde, chief of the White Lake VFD, put things into perspective.
Id rather carry on with what we have to do today, he said after the parade. We have to let go of whats gone already. We have to move on.
As the crowd waited for the trophies to be presented, Darlene Allan, fire police chief of the South Fallsburg VFD, and Gene Barkley, 2nd assistant chief at Grahamsville, kicked up their heels to the tunes of Nat the Cat, a local DJ.