Solidarity, love, and respect filled the air in a spectacular lighted display as dozens of first responders circled Porter Regional Hospital with their rigs and vehicles Saturday night to thank the hospital staff for their courage and dedication during the pandemic.
The vehicles filed in one by one, and at 7 p.m. sharp, at hospital shift change, they engaged their lights as the responders cheered and waved at staff coming out of the hospital doors.
Due to masks, you could only see their eyes – and most were full of tears – but hospital staff stood in awe, nearly all of them saying, “Wow” – almost in unison.
The idea sprouted in conversation between Union Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Werno and other departments. From there, nearly every first responding department in Porter County did what they did best – mobilized quickly to pull it together.
Josh Kandel, Assistant Chief of the Morgan Township Fire Department and secretary of the Porter County Fire Association, helped get the word out.
“The First Responders of Porter County wanted to show their support to all health care workers and staff at Porter Regional Hospital in some way. With social distancing, what better way than to line up our apparatus around the hospital at shift change and cheer them on with our lights and sirens. These frontline workers deserve the recognition for the long hours and dedication they give day in and day out being in the middle of all of this,” Kandel said. “A special thanks to Chief Mark Werno for this idea and making it all come together.”
“We’re all in this together," Werno said. "Fire departments can be very competitive in nature sometimes but this is the time to set that aside, and we did, as you can see, we did. This is about saying thanks to all healthcare workers.”
Some first responders stood on top of their trucks so their cheers could be carried over the wind to the staff at the front entrance.
“This is just awesome to see and experience,” said Sean Dardeau, Porter Health Care System Market CEO. Dardeau and his family stood with the first responders and waived their hand made Thank You sign for staff to see.
“This isn’t something any of us have experienced in our lifetime and it’s wonderful to see this kind of support. The hospital staff needs it, and I know they appreciate it,” he said.
Chesterton Fire Chief John Jarka said he was impressed with the turnout, but not surprised.
“We have such a great communication with emergency responders in all of Porter County. An email went out, there were a few conversations, and this happened - just like that,” Jarka said.
Porter Regionl Hospital reported staff were commenting from inside the hospital as well, as they watched the lights flashing through the windows.
“We’ve never seen anything like this!” “This gives me chills!” “It is incredible to be thanked in this way!”
As the rigs prepared to wrap up the tribute, they drove by the front entrance, one by one, and whooped their sirens as a final salute.
Particpating departments included:
Porter County Fire Association, Union Volunteer Fire Department, Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department, Valparaiso Fire, Porter Volunteer Firefighters, Inc., Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department, Portage Fire Department, Chesterton Fire Department, Boone Grove Fire Department, Morgan Township Volunteer Fire Department, Kouts Fire Department, Ogden Dunes Fire Department, Burns Harbor Fire Department, Hebron Volunteer Fire Department, Westville Vol. Fire Department, Lakes of the Four Seasons Volunteer Fire Force, Porter County Search and Rescue Team, Porter County Sheriff's Office, and Porter EMS.