By: J.L. Shirley
“We take pride in supporting our law enforcement,” says Robert Parisi, Mayor of West Orange, “It is a difficult time to be a police officer.”
This is a sentiment reverberated throughout many towns throughout the country and this support is being wonderfully displayed within Essex County.
Caldwell, Verona and West Orange have all joined in on a community gesture which subtly but strongly recognizes the presence and all of first responders’ sacrifices and all their years of stout service.
This support is being made present through the painting of blue lines on roads within the communities in an effort to draw attention to the men and women who serve the community.
The blue lines are painted at different increments on town roads and are painted within the double yellow lines.
The idea for this project has been threading its way through the country and was brought to each town leader through excited community members and town officials alike.
Parisi notes that a friend, Danny Brink, was the person who brought the idea to his attention and from there the project was “initiated by the administration.” The lines in West Orange were painted on Main St. in front of headquarters and Town Hall.
Ann Dassing, Mayor of Caldwell, states, “The idea was brought to my attention by a Caldwell resident who saw a news story that this had been done in Wayne.”
Seeing the neighboring Essex towns take the lead, Verona was soon to follow by painting lines down the center of Bloomfield Ave. at two block increments in front of the municipal building, rescue squad and the two firehouses.
Dassing states, “This is a visible symbol of Mayor and Council’s support for our police.” Dassing explains that the lines in town were painted on Provost Sq. and then also on Bloomfield Ave. from the Elm Rd. intersection to Central Ave.
“My Public Safety Committee was in favor of doing this in Caldwell,” explains Dassing and the DPW was given charge over the project.
Each of these towns added their own local touch to their projects. In Verona, town officials choose to honor all their first responders.
The town supports all emergency services, says Township Manager, Matthew Cavallo, and “lines were painted to show our respect for them.” With this in mind the town opted to paint lines in support for all emergency responders.
Blue lines were painted for the police force, red for the fire department and white for the rescue squad. These colors have left a streak of red, white and blue down the center of Verona’s streets.
West Orange choose a very special way to honor their police force by tying in the line painting with the memorial of the seventieth anniversary of the death of one of West Orange’s police officers who was killed while on duty.
Officer Daniel Laird was called away from his son’s sixth birthday party to work a graveyard shift on Oct. 27 of 1946. According to an article written by Township Historian Joe Fagan, Laird was driving the squad car on that foggy evening when he and his partner were on patrol for a car which had possibly been involved in a robbery. In the fog Laird saw a car speeding at them and swerved to miss it, the squad car spun out of control and hit a utility pole killing Laird instantly.
With this anniversary in mind, Officer Pat Matullo of the West Orange police force arranged for a ceremony to honor Laird and all past and present police officers on the anniversary of Laird’s death in the line of duty. The work and materials for the line painting in West Orange was donated.
“I take great pride in our town’s history and have great respect for Laird’s sacrifice,” states Parisi.
The roads in Verona were painted on Oct. 25 and the paint for the lines was something the Public Works already had in stock and so came at no cost. Caldwell’s cost of materials and labor was minimal at $300.
All residents will be able to enjoy the memorial to these hard working first-responders as the line paint will last well after the winter. Although no plans have yet been made to repaint the lines after they fade most town officials agree that their support for their officers and emergency workers will not fade and see no reason why the lines will not be painted again.