Visitors to Wading River School passed up the checkpoint at the school’s entrance on Nov. 23, and instead, touched down on the back lawn in a Suffolk County Police Department helicopter as students cheered their arrival from a safe distance. The students excitedly welcomed two of their classmates’ mothers, SCPD pilot Major Phaedra Musselman and Stony Brook flight paramedic Erin Casey, who were joined by aviation officers John Bopp and Darrell Randolph.
Principal Louis Parrinello called the event a career day of sorts and a way to thank the local heroes who take care of the community every day. “These are the unsung heroes in our community,” Mr. Parrinello said. “It’s my hope that students will be inspired to one day become a paramedic or pilot. I guess you can call this event a sort of career day.”
Mr. Parrinello explained that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Major Musselman and he had discussed a flight visit, but it has been difficult to coordinate. Two years later, students finally lined up in groups to climb inside the single-engine aircraft as Major Musselman explained that crews work 24/7 to answer emergency and trauma calls from the Nassau County border to Orient Point and Montauk.
Each class had the opportunity to take a photo in front of the aircraft and to speak with the crew. The students then waved goodbye and sent best wishes for a safe flight as the crew took off into the tree line and back to Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton.