PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- The city of Paterson is marking Tuesday not only as a historic day, but also as a celebration of a person who rose through the ranks to become the first African American deputy fire chief.
"Being the first is a honor, it really is," Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hall said.
Hall has been with the Paterson Fire Department for 23 years, but his first full day at the academy was Sept. 11, 2001. He watched many firefighters die that day and admits to having second thoughts, but soon he embraced his role as a public servant.
"I'm looking forward to just continuing to make this department great, for the greatest fire department in this nation," Hall said.
During his speech, Hall says he did not aspire to become a firefighter as a child, but family members say he did have a couple of toys that foretold his future.
"When he was about four, I bought him a fire helmet and a pair of fireman boots," his mother Edie Holland said. "I used to have to take the boots off of him after he fell asleep."
Hall thanked all of the people who supported him, including his colleagues in the fire department and his family, especially his wife, Jovana Hall, who made sure he was ready when duty and promotions called.
"He was very devoted to making sure that he did well enough so that he could move on and move forward. His focus was really making sure that he did the best so that he can continue to serve the city of Paterson," she said.
The Paterson Fire Department was established in 1895. A historic day for Hall, and the hope here is that many will follow.