Talk of the Town – Blog
We hope this blog will bring hope to and inspire the residents of the Chathams during this time of so many unknowns.
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It’s a little after 12 noon, April 28, 2020, a firefighter is up 100 feet up in the air, with the wind whistling around him. After climbing to the top of the aerial ladder of a Madison firetruck, as high as it could go, he scans the skies to see any sign of the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds of the Air Force, flying in formation. Whoa – two faint streams of white can be seen in the distance, streaking side by side over the distance hills!
About fifteen minutes earlier, I was on Main Street, Chatham, texting my niece in Brooklyn, about this exciting event. She went out to her backyard to see if she could see any of the action.
“I can hear them, but can’t see them” Olivia texted back.
A Berkeley Heights friend, Robert Allard, excitedly caught sight of the jet formation as he drove up McCarter Highway, Newark. Other motorists looked up in awe. Onlookers in Newark and other Essex locations watched the spectacle.
“These flyovers are a gesture of goodwill on behalf of the entire Department of Defense to the heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic” stated the Thunderbird Commander and Lead Pilot, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Caldwell. Healthcare workers, First Responders, and Essential Workers were all being saluted and honored by this awesome fly-over.
After leaving the New York area, the two formations headed south, flying over Trenton and Philadelphia by 2 p.m. to complete their day’s mission. A uniformed bag-pipe player offered up a song to them from the NJ State Police Headquarters in West Trenton.
The Blue Angels, established in 1946, by order of U.S. Navy Admiral Charles W. Nimitz, are painted royal blue with a yellow accent. Their original squadron members picked the name “Blue Angels” from a well-known NYC nightclub.
In 1953 the Air Force’s Thunderbirds were organized. At that time, their home base was the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The name “Thunderbirds” acknowledged the Native American culture and history. They chose the colors red, white, and blue.
The Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels normally do not fly within 150 feet of each other without special permission. This April 2020 fly-over was not spontaneous. Over a month of planning and coordination between the two teams and government offices were held to create this memorable event.
The evening news report that night showed healthcare workers gathered in a park in Weehawken, NJ, looking up in the sky at the breathtaking formation of the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels zooming over them. To see the awed and happy expressions on these people’s faces proved that it was a beautiful, much appreciated tribute.
– Liz Holler
The evening sky of Tuesday, April 8, 2020 was a soft blue with streaks of wispy clouds. The pink full moon of April would soon rise.
A crowd of First Responder vehicles gathered in the parking lot of the Lawton C. Johnson Middle School in Summit, NJ. They were preparing for a “virtual hug” to some very appreciated people.
The emergency vehicles, in parade formation, proceeded with lights flashing and sirens beeping towards nearby Overlook Medical Center. Residents along the way came out on their porches and sidewalks. The vehicles slowly made their way around the Medical Center’s entranceway, sounding sirens and blinking lights. At the entranceway was a crowd of the medical staff, wearing scrubs and medical masks, waving at this lively procession of emergency vehicles from Summit, Berkeley Heights, Mountainside, and Westfield, NJ. When the vehicles parked themselves, First Responders got out, cheered and applauded the hard-working medical workers. Signs of support were held up, expressing thanks to the medical teams. Many of the signs showed rainbows, the symbol of the hope during the Coronavirus pandemic. One touching sight was a lady patient in a wheelchair, surrounded by the medical staff at the entranceway, being released that evening, after a triumphant battle with Covid-19.
Again, on a happy note, the next day, April 9th, at 12 noonish, a tall white rabbit with floppy ears climbed into a Morris County Sheriff’s Dept. SUV. The Easter Bunny (a/k/a Sheriff’s Officer Travis Somerville) was escorted down Court Street by the Morristown Police Dept. with beeping sirens and lights. The Sheriff’s Bunny would continue on his patrol through Morris County neighborhoods, smiling, waving, spreading holiday cheer.
On the local level, the Library of the Chathams has undertaken a “1,000 Mask Challenge” in making masks for medical workers. Also, the Senior Center of the Chathams has 50 volunteers to help older residents with their grocery needs. Chatham resident Liz Bernich with Madison resident Gina McGuire started the very successful group, FLAG (the Front-Line Appreciation Group) making sure delicious meals are delivered to front-line health care workers. Numerous other FLAG units have sprung up across the nation.
We will keep these generous acts of kindness close to our hearts during the difficult days and nights ahead, dealing with Covid-19. These events and wonderful people will be our rainbows of hope.
– Liz Holler
We Chathamites treasure happy memories of 4th of July celebrations, Fishawack Festivals, holiday gatherings at the Gazebo, CHS victories in sports.
However, sadder memories exist in the shadows – one of a mother on my street, along with other parents, having to walk to the Chatham telegraph office (now the Taste of Asia restaurant) during World War II to receive telegrams informing them that their sons serving in the military had been killed in action. Members of Chatham’s American Legion would be on hand with the grief-stricken parents at the Chatham train station to receive the coffins of the fallen soldiers.
The Chatham Fire Department tragically lost beloved firefighters in the line of duty – Doyle Butler in 1941 and Lewis Sheats in 1993.
On 9/11, the Chathams lost thirteen dear residents in a terrorist attack, a memory that will haunt us forever.
In October 2009, Chatham was rocked by the senseless murder of Father Edward J. Hinds, pastor of St. Patrick Church.
Through it all – neighbors reached out and comforted each other as best they could. A strong fellowship and faith helped our community to somehow pick up the pieces and go forward.
During these uncertain days of the Coronavirus crisis, the signs of early spring are blossoming around us. We see neighborhood kids riding bikes, playing street hockey, creating amazing chalk designs on the sidewalks. Their laughter and happy voices are music to our ears. We adults call out “take care” and “be well” to each other, even to strangers. We affirm our belief that we will get through this crisis. We are Jersey Tough. We will draw our courage from these earlier Chatham residents who survived the dark days of World Wars, the Depression, the Cold War tensions. We will channel their fighting spirit.
– Liz Holler