Oakdale firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) were honored with a ceremony and barbecue at the Lighthouse Baptist Church on Sunday, Sept. 11 called “Heroes Appreciation Sunday.” The event to recognize the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to honor local heroes was organized by the church with several in-kind donations from local businesses as well as financial and food donations made by members of the congregation.
“It was (arranged) mainly so we can appreciate our local first responders,” said Lighthouse Baptist Church pastor David Azzarello. “What better way to show that appreciation than have a barbecue together.”
The morning started with a church service where Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul spoke briefly about her memories of 9/11 and said that when everyone was running out of the twin tower buildings, the first responders were calm in their mission of going in to rescue people. She said the local event was to pay tribute to first responders and she offered a humble thanks to them.
Following the mayor’s proclamation, the rescue workers present were each given a gift bag from the church that included a travel mug, a Christian music CD, a book, and dining gift cards donated by several local restaurants. Then a college tour group of singers from West Coast Baptist College provided special music. The congregation followed that by singing “America The Beautiful.”
The sermon that morning was delivered by guest pastor Toby Weaver of Lancaster. He tied his message of humbleness and compassion to what the firefighters and police officers do in their jobs and said that he owes it to them to live right. He talked about growing up and remembering where he was when JFK was assassinated and then later when 9/11 happened.
“We mustn’t forget. We must not forget,” Pastor Weaver said, later adding that he refuses to be paralyzed in panic about the state of the world because God is in control.
Weaver also prayed for the safety of the emergency personnel and said it’s important to let them know they are appreciated.
Pastor Azzarello said that the Heroes Appreciation Sunday event had been on the church’s calendar since last November. He reported that they gave out about 5,000 invitation cards in the community and said he was very happy with the turnout. The church had arranged with the city to have Second Avenue cordoned off between E and F streets where the Oakdale Police Department’s mobile command center, an OPD police car, a 1951 GMC fire truck built in Oakdale at Van Pelt, and a modern Oakdale Fire truck were on display.
“This was a well-organized event,” Mayor Paul noted, adding that for a small congregation, it was nice of them to provide gifts to the emergency services personnel.
Tables and chairs donated by Oakdale’s party rental service were set up in the street and Medlen’s House of Beef donated the use of its barbecue trailer. The barbecue offerings donated by the parishioners included ribs, chicken, tri tip steak, and hot dogs, plus numerous side dishes they prepared.
Oakdale Citizens Auxiliary Police Services (CAPS) volunteers facilitated the children’s fingerprinting and were surprised to also be recognized at the appreciation event.
“We were totally unexpected to be honored,” said CAPS volunteer Bev Hay. “We came to be of service and what a nice surprise that was.”