SOMESVILLE – It was just last January when two young girls and a father were rescued after falling through the ice of Long Pond in Southwest Harbor. More than a year later, those first responders are being honored in a special way.
The power of a picture.
“There was really something almost larger than life and also something very honest about these photos,” said father and photographer Rogier van Bakel.
The photos highlight 43 firefighters from the towns of Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor and Tremont.
“He took a picture of me and my father and we ended up on the Ellsworth American and a Downeast magazine and like [I] didn’t think it would ever go this far which it’s really nice to see it that way,” said Mount Desert and Tremont Volunteer Firefighter Andrew Jewett.
The gesture was a way for photographer Rogier van Bakel to say thank you. His daughter was one of three people who fell through the ice of Long Pond last January.
“The heroics that they went through to make that happen because they literally, as they often do, they put their lives on the line to save my girl,” said van Bakel.
A majority of those firefighters were volunteers. To them, that rescue, like many others, was just another day on the job.
“Any firefighter you talk to is going to say the same thing, is we don’t feel like a hero,” said Mount Desert Fire Department Lt. Amilie Blackman. “It takes a special person to do what we do and you have to have passion to do it, but you wouldn’t consider it a hero, it’s more of a privilege to be there to help somebody on the worst day of their life.”
Van Bakel remembers that day clearly. It’s why taking these photos felt like the necessary and unique way to say thanks.
“Once they saw the photos I think most of them were really impressed with the way they came out and pleased the way they came out too,” said Mount Desert Fire Department Chief Michael Bender.
They were so well-liked, they’ve garnered national attention from outlets like the New York Times. While that type of attention is appreciated, the purpose of the photos runs much deeper.
“I never used to have to think about firefighters but now every time I see a helmet or I see one of their posts or whatever it’s like, these people really do something very very special and I’m very grateful to them,” said van Bakel.