“I opened my smock while I was running,” Patterson recalled, holding his diploma in one hand and his cap in the other as he rushed to the fire station a few blocks away just after 7:30 p.m. on June 24
Kasumi Layne-Stasik, a Port Jefferson High School classmate and firefighter, also ran — holding a congratulatory bouquet of blue flowers. She took off her earrings and necklace as she ran.
“I didn’t think twice about it,” said Layne-Stasik, 18.
Once they reached the fire station, the students quickly donned their protective gear and within minutes they were in a fire engine and driving to the scene of a house about half a mile away. A fire broke out in the garage.
“It was a somewhat extraordinary circumstance,” Patterson said, explaining that the proximity of the high school’s graduation to the fire station and also the fire station’s proximity to the fire made it a smooth process. “Speed is very important. We like to get to our destination quickly.”
“It’s hectic, but things get done and it’s a really cool experience,” Layne-Stasik reiterated.
Within an hour, the flames were out and no one was injured. The cause of the fire is currently being investigated by the village fire department, the Port Jefferson Fire Department said.
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Patterson has been a fire department volunteer since he was 14 years old. He attended a junior training program and officially became a firefighter in February 2021. Since then, he has responded to several fires and other emergencies.
“When you think of firefighters, you don’t usually think of 17- or 18-year-olds,” Patterson said, adding that he and other trainees underwent rigorous training — including lectures and hands-on practice — before officially becoming members of the department. “I definitely like the aspect of helping people. It’s nice to actually make a difference.”
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Like Patterson, Layne-Stasik enrolled in the faculty’s junior program at age 14, for which she now serves as an advisor. She was the only girl of the eight students in her class to take part.
“I never feel left out or anything,” she said. “I just love being there.”
Christian Neubert, the Port Jefferson Deputy Fire Chief, was on duty on graduation day. Had the students not acted so quickly, he said, the outcome of the fire might not have been as favorable.
“The theory is that the fire doubles every thirty seconds,” said Neubert, who is also a middle school teacher and taught five of the six seniors when they were younger. “It was really rewarding to see her show up throughout the fire service.”
The Port Jefferson Fire Department has approximately 60 active members and is an all-volunteer organization.
“Nobody gets paid, and many of these children have jobs,” Neubert said. They were also full-time students. “They are really dedicated. They react to everything they can.”
Active firefighters receive general alerts on their phones and pagers, and as soon as a qualified crew arrives at the fire station, the response begins.
“It’s almost like first come, first served,” explained Neubert. “If they hadn’t responded because they were at the graduation ceremony, everyone would have understood.”
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While it was a momentous day for the six students, “they are highly motivated,” Neubert said, adding that he wasn’t surprised that everyone was quick to act. “In our day and age, there’s a perception that kids aren’t what they used to be when it comes to drive and motivation. That’s the opposite of that.”
“We’re talking about the nicest kids one could ask for,” Neubert continued. “I can’t say enough about her. You brought so much life to the fire station.”
The school administration shared the same opinion.
“This is a milestone in their lives, and even that didn’t stop them from serving their community as they have done countless times in their lives,” said Robert Neidig, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at the Port Jefferson School District. “We couldn’t be prouder.”
The students are all going to college next year and some are staying. Still, they say they will all remain active members of the fire department, and whenever they come home to Port Jefferson for breaks, they plan to continue responding to fire calls and other emergencies.
Although their graduation ceremonies were canceled, the students said they couldn’t have had it any other way. For Layne-Stasik, the conclusion was even more gratifying when, midway through the celebration, she reported for service to support her community.
“The transition of us all throwing our hats up and then immediately helping out was the most memorable moment for me,” Layne-Stasik said.
“It was a very good day,” he said.
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https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/07/03/port-jefferson-firefighter-patterson-kasumi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_lifestyle These high school seniors ran away from graduation to fight a fire