With prayer and song, the Concord Rotary Club presented its annual Al Filipov Award for Courage and Service to two members of the Concord Police and Fire Departments.
Rotarian Filipov was killed in the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. (See column from son David Filipov)
The ceremony was solemn and jovial in equal measure as the two departments gathered with Rotary Club members and town officials to honor Firefighter Samantha McChesney and Police Sgt. Tia Manchuso.
“This means everything,” said McChesney, who joined the department two years ago. “I’m excited to be here getting an award, but we are grieving as well. It’s a hard reality.”
McChesney participates, with 343 other firefighters, in Tough Rucks, or 26.2 mile marathons, that honor America’s fallen military and first responders.
Tough Ruckers run in heavy gear and carry 40-pound backpacks with the names of police and firefighters who lost their lives.
“I’m adding Al Filipov to my pack,” said McChesney.
Sgt. Manchuso is a 16-year veteran of the Concord Police Department who started as a dispatcher, joining the force nine years ago.
She was nominated for the Filipov Award owing to her quick thinking and professional demeanor when she was off duty and assisted with a “very bad crash” on Lowell Road in May.
“I’m thankful and appreciative for this award,” said Manchuso.
“We reflect on the heroism of first responders,” said Rotarian Sharon Spaulding. “They serve with courage, grit and moral strength.” She said Filipov embodied Rotary’s motto of “service above self.”
Rev. John Lombard, retired pastor of Trinitarian Congregational Church, where Filipov worshipped, praised him as a man of “decency and integrity.”
Lombard hailed the first responders as Concord’s present-day Minute Men, “ready to engage in the challenges and emergencies round the clock.”
Spaulding read a statement from Loretta Filipov, Al’s widow, who did not attend.
“I am pleased to honor his beautiful and caring legacy,” she wrote. “I’m humbled by all you do.”