The WWP News in conjunction with West Windsor Gives Back, a new community organization, will be running articles throughout 2018 in celebration of the West Windsor Police Department’s 50th anniversary.
Most of us automatically run away from danger. When a building is burning we get out; when someone yells, “Shelter in place!” we huddle down. We are confident that somehow there are a brave few who will make things right in the end.
West Windsor Police Sergeant Michael McMahon has been one of those few. For almost 30 years, he’s rushed around the country to major disasters, helped fight fires in West Windsor, responded to medical emergencies and patrolled the streets to confront criminals.
During the recent Hurricane Michael emergency in Florida and Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, the state Office of Emergency Management (NJ Urban Search and Rescue Team, NJ-TF1) deployed McMahon as a first responder. These were not the first times. As a rescue specialist, swift water rescue technician and boat operator, he is in the thick of it for water related disasters of all kinds.
During Hurricane Michael, he went with his team through Jackson County during a wide area search to check on the residents.
“We came upon a house filled by 14 people and their pets. That house was damaged— there was a tree through the roof—but it was the least ravaged home among the three families that were sheltering together. With all this misery around him, a little boy came out with a book and asked us to read to him.”
Capt. Kinte Holt from the Hamilton Township Fire Department started reading to the boy. Incredibly touched, McMahon took their picture. The picture was posted on the state Office of Emergency Management Facebook page and has been passed around as a symbol of comfort during the worst of times.
But McMahon’s talents as a rescue specialist are not limited to water. He has assisted in everything from a natural gas explosion to building collapses. He was there after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center through Sept. 20.
“Regarding my experience responding to the attack on our nation at the World Trade Center, it was difficult,” said the Sergeant. “NJ-TF1 was activated to respond at 9:15 am on September 11th, prior to either of the collapses. The attacks were still occurring and the magnitude of the response was unprecedented. In the coming days, it became clear that, while still in rescue mode, the likelihood of finding survivors was unlikely. I believe it became a mission of the responders to find whatever was possible to give families closure.“
McMahon is an Eagle Scout who graduated from WW-P High School in 1988. Both his mother and father had traditions of public service that were instilled in their son. His mother was a registered nurse and his father was a U.S. Army Vietnam combat veteran. Both his parents are still residents of West Windsor.
McMahon says that after joining the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Company after high school, he “developed a passion for emergency response.” He earned his firefighter certification, then went on to get EMT, vehicle rescue, rope, high angle and trench rescue certifications and joined the Twin W Rescue Squad. In 1991, he became a full time West Windsor employee in the Division of Emergency Services as a firefighter/EMT and rose to the rank of lieutenant.
After earning a fire science associate’s degree, he earned a BA in public administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in public safety from St. Joseph’s University.
McMahon joined the West Windsor Police in 2006 and worked nights for about six years. He moved to the traffic bureau and was promoted to sergeant in 2014. He is currently a day shift patrol sergeant.
His service covers all types of incidents including fires, construction accidents, hazardous materials spills, auto accidents, drownings, neighbor disputes, weather emergencies.
In 2014, he was the initial responding officer in officer in an incident where a grandfather kidnapped his 5-year-old grandson and took him to South Carolina. “Sadly,” McMahon says, “it is most often the tragedies that you remember.”
There are also a lot of positive memories, too. “Successful resuscitations of cardiac arrest victims, successful Narcan deliveries, even helping out at the delivery of a baby.”
He adds his many community policing activities on the good side: “National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop, the annual 9/11 memorial, parades, community days, youth academies, public safety days, fire prevention events, and even regular walks at the farmers markets.”
McMahon makes sure to give credit to those around him, whether co-workers in the Public Safety Department, family, or community.
“The most important part is that I responded as part of a great team of women and men to these incidents and we always did our best no matter the outcome.” he says, “The people make this career. The women and men that will do anything for each other and anything to protect the people we swore an oath to protect.” As for the citizens of West Windsor, “We are fortunate to serve a community that respects and supports us.”
A proud father of his son, Max and, daughter, Emily, he talks about how much he appreciates the backing of both family and friends over the years.
“There have been many missed holidays and birthdays, and their support never wavered,” he says.