I mentioned in a post yesterday that January 28th this year held a special significance for me and a local religious community. Fifty years ago on that day a major fire devastated the campus of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, and I was there as a student.
The Saint Vincent community remembered that day, and paid tribute to the extraordinary courage and selflessness of the first responders on that day - the nearly 400 firefighters from 31 departments, the State police, Salvation Army, Red Cross, and countless others who "came to the rescue" on that bitterly cold day when the Old Student Chapel (one of the original building from the mid 1800's), biology lab, the entire monastery, Prep building, bell tower, the monk's Choir Chapel were destroyed and many other buildings severely damaged.
Last evening on campus at least 300 firefighters, police, alumni, monks and honored guests gathered to pay tribute and to honor the two men who spearheaded the efforts that day: Retired Chief Earl Dalton of the Latrobe Department and Chief Ed Hutchinson of the Greensburg Department. Each received the College Presidential Medal from College President Brother Norman Hipps, O.S.B. A video tribute that reminded everyone of that day, when the temp was 10 below and ice was the companion of fire was shown and a program of song, prayer and tributes were shared. One of the speakers representing Governor Corbett was Mr. Edward Mann, the Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner. In his remarks he mentioned that he attends countless gatherings in his role, but this one was somewhat unique in that we were celebrating a fire - but one that gave evidence to the dedication and courage of so many and which led to a rebirth on the Saint Vincent campus.
Following the program, all were treated to drinks and refreshments followed by a buffet dinner. All received a fireman's patch of commemoration and a recently published book on the fire. Kudos to the Saint Vincent Community for a wonderful evening, and to the men and women who respond to our needs in time of peril.