Michael Hall is now the city of Paterson’s first Black deputy fire chief. Hall has worked as a firefighter for 23 years, and despite not having dreamed of becoming one as a child, he has succeeded in it and etched his mark on history.
Recounting his journey into the field, he said, “I was dating Jovana, now my wife, back in 1999 who had an uncle who was a firefighter. But truthfully, growing up, I wasn’t the kind of kid who ever considered becoming a firefighter. Before joining the department, I was a college student studying computers. For some reason, Jovana’s uncle pulled me aside and suggested that I take the test for the Academy. He said, ‘you’re smart, cool, in good shape and you’ve never been in any trouble. You should go for it.’ So, I took the test.”
“I was shocked when the call came two years later that out of over 600 people who had taken the test, I had made the top of the list. My first day at the Fire Academy was on Sept. 10, 2001, and it was pretty uneventful – a lot of paperwork. But the next day I quickly realized what being a firefighter was all about,” he said, per NJ Urban News.
September 11, 2001, was his second day on the job and he recalled he wanted to leave. Nevertheless, Hall continued, citing the 9/11 tragedy as a motivating force and a turning point. He stated that everyone in his crew stayed, even though several firemen died on the job.
“Everybody stayed. And here we are, most of us, 23-plus years later, still doing this. So I’m glad it worked out,” Hall remarked.
His wife, Jovana, his son, Jason, and his mother, Edith Holland, were all present to celebrate the momentous occasion last week Tuesday.
His wife told CBS News, “He was very smart, and he wanted to make sure that not only did he come home safe, but made sure that his guys came home safe, too.”
The 46-year-old claimed that there were only about ten Black firefighters when he began his career, however, he estimates that the department is now roughly 40% Black.
CBS reported how much the appointee was respected and admired, as evidenced by the large crowd that gathered at City Hall to congratulate him on his historic achievement.
Battalion Chief Michael Trommelen stated, “It’s not just about the books. It’s about knowing the job, and he knows the job.”
Deputy Chief Hall shared his dream of being a role model to the little children in Paterson and beyond, saying, “I’m ready for the challenge of better equipping and training those committed to the job of public safety – keeping them safe in the many things they do – and keeping our communities safe as well.”
“I can’t say that I’ve been perfect doing my job. But no one can say that I haven’t always tried to do the job the right way – the best I can. Moving forward, I want to continue to be a role model for little boys and girls here in Paterson and beyond. I want them to know that they can make a difference. I hope they’ll look at me and believe that if I could do it, they can too,” Hall added.