From flooding spawned by a hurricane and tropical storm, to devastating fires, to tragic accidents and dramatic rescues, it seems our emergency service personnel providers have been tested more than ever during these last fleeting days of summer.

For proof we need to go no farther than last weekend when emergency responders in the Tamaqua area were confronted with a major fire that destroyed the historic White diner, the search and recovery of a drowning victim at Tuscarora Lake, and separate fatal accidents that cost the lives of a New Ringgold teenager and a Barnesville motorcyclist.

In a great many emergencies we read and hear about, the volunteers and first responders are credited with making those split-second judgments that save lives or property from destruction.

With the amount and quality of service that has been on display by our volunteers for so many years, it's appropriate that this area finally gets to host a state convention. Lake Harmony is providing the stage for this statewide event, which gets under way later this week in Kidder Township.

This nation recently observed the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, a day that changed our country and our individual lives forever. It's only fitting that the Somerset Fire Company will be grand marshal for the convention parade.

On the morning of Sept. 11, these firefighters were one of the first responders when Flight 93 crashed in a field outside Shanksville in Somerset County. Little did those firefighters know when they donned their gear that morning that they would soon be responding to one of the four plane crashes that marked 9/11 as one of the darkest days in American history. In many ways these volunteers typify the dedicated and selfless service many of us take so much for granted.

One of the first events to kick off the four-day convention will be Thursday's Memorial Service, in which the ladder trucks of the Somerset and Lake Harmony Fire Departments will form the firefighters' memorial arch. Accompanying that dramatic display will be the release of 22 doves.

Our firefighting volunteers offer assistance and protection 24/7, so it's only proper that they and their statewide brethren receive the public recognition and thanks they deserve.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com