Planet Princeton

Remembering EMT Michael Kenwood One Year Later

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (r) chats with Michael Kenwood’s father after the memorial service at Greenway Meadows Park. Guadagno has met with the family before and attended Kenwood’s funeral last year.
Princeton Township police officers Mike Cifelli and Robert Toole lead the procession to the service.
The service began and ended with music from a bagpiper.

More than 300 emergency personnel, dignitaries and residents attended the memorial service today to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Kenwood, the emergency medical technician who lost his life last year after attempting a rescue during Hurricane Irene. The service, held at the Greenway Meadows Park in Princeton Township, was organized by the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS).

New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno spoke during the service that was also attended by U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, County Freeholders Andrew Koontz and Pat Colavita, Princeton Township Committee members Bernie Miller and Liz Lempert, and Borough Council members Jo Butler and Kevin Wilkes.

Guadagno recalled how Kenwood became interested in becoming an emergency responder after a car accident just a few months before his freshman year at Brandeis University.  An injured Kenwood felt afraid and helpless as he looked at his two friends, one of whom was unconscious, and the hysterical driver of the other car. Kenwood swore to himself that if he lived, he would learn the skills to care for himself and others in an emergency. He joined the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps, later became its director, and joined PFARS when he moved to the Princeton area.

“He stood up and did something about the situation,” Guadagno said, applauding his courage. She also recalled a conversation last year with Michael’s father, Martin Kenwood, about his son’s death.

“His father said Michael died doing what he wanted to do, and he was the best-trained first responder  there could be,” she said.

Guadagno said she hopes Michael’s death will be a catalyst that inspires others to be selfless in their service to their communities.  “I hope it gives us all just a little bit more courage…that we do just a little more for others.”

Kenwood was part of a the swiftwater rescue team that was swept away while attempting to reach a submerged vehicle. Kenwood, 39, died from his injuries, leaving behind a wife and young daughter.

The East Windsor resident joined the rescue squad in 2007 and quickly became a vital asset to the organization. In addition to his dedicated volunteer service as an EMT and rescue technician, he served the squad as a trustee and the information technology director. When not volunteering for the squad, he was an accomplished attorney and owner of a technology consulting company.

“He was out go-to guy. You could always count on him,” PFARS Director of Operations Frank Setnicky said. “We will miss him and we will never forget his sacrifice. He loved his family and he loved helping others.”

At the end of the service, a bench on a hill overlooking the park was dedicated in Kenwood’s honor. Next month the squad will also host a tribute concert and fundraiser in collaboration with Broadway Sings to celebrate Kenwood’s  life and legacy. Broadway Sings is a professional concert production company and  features stars of Broadway musicals and national touring productions. The performers are donating their talents for the evening of music.

The concert will be held at 7 p.m. on September 23 at the Princeton High School Performing Arts Center. A silent auction also will be held at the event, and bidding will begin at 6 p.m. Items up for bid are expected to include goods and services from local businesses as well as Broadway tickets and collectors items. All proceeds from the event will be split between Kenwood’s family and the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad. Tickets for the event can be ordered online at michaelkenwood.brownpapertickets.com and will be available for $30 and $75. Corporate sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information, visit www.pfars.org, email info@pfars.org, or call (609) 924-3338.

Fire, police and PFARS members turned out in large numbers for the service.
The bench PFARS bought in memory of Kenwood.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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