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Community meets protectors

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland Police Patrolman Jeff Fitts shows Michael Mills, 5, of Cortland some technical aspects of being a police officer Saturday during Emergency Services Appreciation Day at Suggett Park in Cortland. Several police, fire and other emergency services agencies participated in the event.

Eva Armstrong of Homer looked Saturday above Suggett Park from the top platform of a ladder truck with friends Bella Guido of Homer and Harper Sinclair of Kennesaw, Georgia. It was the most fun the 8-year-olds had that day, along with watching a police dog unit demonstration.

“I couldn’t train my dog to do that,” Armstrong said.

They were at the first Emergency Services Appreciation Day, where police departments, fire departments and other services got together to inform the public what their jobs are all about. People could also take rides in a Lifenet helicopter and look through a TLC Emergency Medical Services ambulance.

Jesse Abbott, Cortland’s community oriented police officer, started planning the event a month and a half ago and contacted the agencies to bring them together. His goal was for between 200 and 300 people to show up.

A dozen emergency services organizations were present, including the Cortland and Homer police departments, the fire departments of Homer, Cortland and Cortlandville, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office, SUNY Cortland police, state forest rangers and emergency medical services.

A raffle auctioning gift cards, a Destiny USA package and autographed Dan Aykroyd memorabilia helped raise money for Project Unbreakable, which assists military and law enforcement members with post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues. The amount that was raised was not available this morning from police.

“Since September is emergency services month, it’s good that we all get together and raise money for a good cause,” Abbott said.

Aside from riding on the platform of a fire department ladder truck, people could also take part in a mock firing range in the Burch Building and watch a car rollover simulator. One of the other stations people could go through was the Kid’s Safety House, a home simulator where kids can learn what to do in the event of a house fire. They learn how to stop, drop and roll, what to do about kitchen fires, how to stay low when there is smoke in a house and how to exit through the windows if necessary.

“It’s something we’ll see more of at other firefighter events,” said Cortland fire Capt. Rich Rogers.

Rogers said it was good for kids to go through the motions and do something they would not normally do. All of the other emergency responders present have gotten a warm reception from the public.

“People here are grateful for our service,” Rogers said.