WADDINGTON — The flashing lights and sound of sirens Saturday in Waddington weren’t in response to an emergency.
Law enforcement agencies, first responders, elected officials and others converged on the village for a “Back the Blue” parade.
Police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and other vehicles took part in the parade, which traveled about one mile from Linden Street to JC’s River Run.
More than 30 organizations and individuals from throughout St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis and Franklin counties had been invited to participate in the event that was organized to show support for all law enforcement, fire department and emergency medical service agencies. However, the number of participants was much higher. The parade was announced publicly Friday evening, and others were welcome to join in the convoy, according to Massena chiropractor, Dr. William Orlando, one of the organizers.
“I was asked to help with some organization of this parade. I treated many of the law enforcement officials out here and their friends. So it was easy for me to get to the head of the agencies with a phone call,” he said.
His Corvette was among the vehicles in the parade, and it had a special message on the front hood — “Back the Blue” painted in gray for the Border Patrol, purple for New York State Police and blue for local departments.
“On behalf of the north country, we changed the emblem to three colors of stripes,” Dr. Orlando said.
As vehicles traveled the route, several individuals stood on the sidelines with signs supporting their efforts. They included messages like “Back the Blue” and “Our Police Matter To Us.” No walkers participated in the parade because of COVID-19.
Among those who participated and later spoke to the crowd were three candidates in this year’s election — Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, and Greg Storie, who is running for St. Lawrence County court judge.
“In the north country, law enforcement is part of the fabric and really the strength of our community. When you consider the troopers, the county sheriff’s office, our local police departments, our CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officers, this is a region that supports and embraces our law enforcement. We should be very, very proud of that here in the north country. They do incredible work for this community,” Ms. Stefanik said.
She said hundreds of people turned out in Plattsburgh last weekend “to show their support for their friends, their family, their neighbors that are part of our law enforcement community.”
“I also want to thank the spouses and the children and the parents of our law enforcement officers. As I talked to parents of state troopers, I had a conversation with a gentleman who said he worries about going to sleep every night because he fears for his child’s life. They put their lives on the line, at risk every single day and we owe them a debt of gratitude,” she said.
Ms. Stefanik said she had the support of law enforcement in this year’s campaign.
“I am the only candidate in this race who stands up for our law enforcement. I have an opponent who supports defunding the police. We don’t need to defund the police, we need to defend the police. This is about standing up for our values... which is why I am so excited to announce that I have been endorsed by the Police Conference of New York state. I am the first member of the New York Congressional delegation to earn that endorsement. I have also been endorsed by our Border Patrol,” she said.
Mr. Walczyk said he was proud to support law enforcement in Albany.
“I’m proud that I’ve been able to thread the needle in Albany to stand up and support our police officers, men and women. Frankly, I’m preaching to the choir. This crowd knows that,” he said.
“I think it’s important to state anyway, every single day when they get up and they do their job, they need to be on their A game. Every single day that they put on their uniform, there is a really good chance they’re going to meet somebody on the worst day of their life. They’re definitely going to meet somebody that’s had the worst day that week, certainly that year plenty of times,” Mr. Walczyk said.
He said he talked with some officers before the parade and heard about issues they’ve faced.
“Just domestic disputes alone would make me never want to do their jobs. A huge thank you to the men and women who put on the uniform, put themselves in dangerous situations and, frankly, people who are criticizing them the most would have no courage to do so whatsoever,” he said.
Mr. Storie said three things came to mind when he thought about law enforcement — appreciation, admiration and respect.
“Another word that comes to mind personally is family. I have a cousin. He’s a retired state trooper. During a routine traffic stop, a man tried to stab him in the chest. Middle of the day, routine traffic stop, he was not expecting this. So I understand that when law enforcement officers go to work every day, they don’t know what’s going to happen. They don’t know if they’re coming home,” he said.
“Our law enforcement officers, whether it’s an accident, a violent crime, even sometimes a fire, they’re going to help. So there’s a great personal cost to themselves,” Mr. Storie said.