IRVINGTON, NJ — The Rev. Ronald B. Christian of Christian Love Baptist Church was serving as a chaplain for the Essex County Sheriff’s Department when he died unexpectedly in October 2015; however, his spirit of public safety and service was on display at the church’s 15th annual Sept. 11 Remembrance Service on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
“We did that to carry on not only his legacy, but also there’s so many wonderful things that the firemen, police and officers and law enforcement … are doing; they just don’t get enough recognition for it,” said the Rev. William Christian, Ron Christian’s father, who has been serving as the interim pastor at the church since his son’s death last year.
“And so, in our little small way, carrying on the tradition of Rev. Ron, we were able to hold this ceremony again this year for Sept. 11. We’re appreciative that so many officers showed up and participated in it and we were happy to give away certificates for them to honor them. We couldn’t do enough. We only did what we could do, in this case. But we thank God for them and they’re in our prayers constantly.”
Irvington Public Safety Director Tracey Bowers said he was grateful to hear that, adding that it’s always nice for anyone in any occupation to feel appreciated, especially those in public safety who put their lives on the line every day.
“(This church) has been consistent with this wonderful tradition,” Bowers said Tuesday, Sept. 13. “It’s a great thing to honor all the heroes who were injured and lost their lives on Sept. 11 and we are grateful for the police, fire, emergency responders and all people who continue to protect and help keep our communities safe.”
This year’s honorees included: Detective Mitchell Molina and officers Sheraldine Frazier, Ronesa Youngblood and Dharmasena Gunatilaka, of the Irvington Police Department; Capt. John Durish and firefighters Ronald O’Dowd and Andrew Zwirko, of the Irvington Fire Department; Sgt. Lawrence Flanagan, Detective Dedra Booker and officers Elaine Settle and Damon Johnson, of the East Orange Police Department; Capt. Walter Harris and Capt. Larry Carter, of the East Orange Fire Department; Capt. Gerard Long and firefighters Duvon Hagans, Dominick Rothenberger, Cleophas Bell and James Antoine, of the Orange Fire Department; Deputy Chief Richard Gail, Battalion Chief Christopher Daniels and Capt. Delfina Ortiz, of the Newark Fire Department; detectives Jason P. Zuhowski and Brian E. Weagley and Officer James H. DeFazio, of the Maplewood Police Department; officers Demetrius McQueen, Jonathan Mancini, Robert Friday and Mark Gorham of Beth Israel Hospital Security; Lt. Janine Straccamore, Sgt. Nichele Patrick and the Crime Scene Unit of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office; Detective Ozzie Ryals and Officer Salaa Bennett of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department; and troopers I. Dajuam Hutchins and Dwayne Golding of the State Police.
The 2016 Laura Hecht Award was presented to Darrel K. Terry Sr., president of Beth Israel Hospital, and the 2016 Lifetime Service Award was presented to Carolyn Whigham, of Whigham Funeral Home in Newark.
“I’m just so thankful that (Christian Love Baptist Church) leadership and congregation found it in their hearts to take time out to remember those that were lost on Sept. 11, and then honor those individuals in public safety,” Settle said Monday, Sept. 12. “I’m glad I was there to be a part of the service.”