Police radio chatter and the distant hum of large vehicle apparatus echo in the background behind Cole Martin, whose ears have become intimately acquainted with such sounds. He has been surrounded by them his whole life.
“I’m in the firehouse right now because it’s uncomfortable and reminds me of school,” he reported, seated in the meeting room of Verona Volunteer Fire Department Station #1.
For Cole, the firehouse has become the classroom he reports to as he attends school virtually with his peers.
But in many ways Cole and his classmates are very unalike. A firehouse, obviously, is not the typical high school hangout or study spot.
Cole, now a senior, has been on the fire department since his sophomore year. Participation in the auxiliary unit of the department is an opportunity open to all of Cole’s peers but seized by few. For him, speeding down Bloomfield Avenue in Engine 12, sirens wailing, is a just part of a hobby. Gas leaks, working fires, and hose pumps fill his leisure time.
Maybe it’s in his blood. There are few Verona students to whom the name Martin wouldn’t ring a bell; Cole’s father, Detective Joel Martin of the Verona Police Department, has become ubiquitous in the school community as something of a public safety ambassador.
Cole made it clear that he had no inclination to pursue police work himself, but being the son of one of Verona’s most well-known police officers is in itself a unique position.
“I don’t get invited to parties a lot,” said Cole, half in jest.
When he does, though, he’s glad to always be the first to know when cops are on the way, or, conversely, to be the one who can assuage paranoia when there is no imminent bust.
Cole further distinguishes himself from his peers with another unique hobby: flying. He went on his first recreational flight in the seventh grade, and describes having an interest in aviation from a young age.
“You can run, you can swim, but you just can’t fly,” he recalls thinking.
Cole is now on track to earn his private pilot license, and plans to pursue a degree in an aviation-related subject area, perhaps at the University of Maine or the University of Ohio, he said, and hopes for a career in the industry.