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Thread: Honoring heroes

  1. #1
    Administrator Neil's Avatar
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    Honoring heroes

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010


    Honoring heroes
    Dead firefighters never forgotten


    By Hunter Amabile SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAM & GAZETTE

    City firefighters call it “the stuff,” and it has been building up for years.

    Some of it is tucked into containers. Other items are too big and occupy the floor.

    Every item the Worcester Fire Department received in honor of the six firefighters who died in the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building fire is kept inside a basement room of a Compagnie de Saint-Gobain warehouse on New Bond Street.

    The items inside symbolize the outpouring of support for the Fire Department that came flowing in from near and far, from all over Worcester County and all over the country.

    There is a cast bronze bell made by a firefighter in Chicago and a golden-headed ax mounted on hardwood from the fire departments in Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit. There's an oversize $300,000 check from the Leary Firefighters Foundation. A 5-foot-tall Santa Claus teddy bear and a 12-foot-tall piece of fence pinned with T-shirts and letters of condolences also take up space.

    All of these items were too big to fit in the 88 24-gallon containers filled with cards, marker-drawn posters, and school assignments.

    Lt. Donald J. Courtney, the unofficial “keeper of the stuff,” said the first signs of public support made their way to the fences on Franklin Street the day after the fire.

    The department's Engine No. 12 soon became a showcase for public outpouring of support for firefighters. The engine never left the scene, as firefighter tradition holds that the truck must not return to the station without its crew.

    As time passed, the donations flowed in.

    “Months after the fire, we thought, ‘Wow, we have a lot of stuff,' ” Lt. Courtney said. Firefighters bought five storage bins and began putting the items aside. They soon bought five more, and then five more. They started running out of space.

    Lt. Courtney is not sure how it happened or who talked to whom, but Saint-Gobain offered the Fire Department a climate-controlled storage room free of charge.

    Stepping around boxes, Lt. Courtney and District Fire Chief Walter C. Girard find a framed piece donated by Fire Capt. Michael J. Lavoie. It has pictures of the six firefighters, three on each side of a glass-cased box within the frame. Inside the box is a deposit of ash from the fire and a pair of gloves used to sift through the rubble. Lt. Courtney and Chief Girard remembered the hundreds of people who spent days searching through the destruction, looking for their fallen brothers.

    Chief Girard held out a ring of accountability cards he found from a firefighter at Otis Air Force Base. The cards contain the name, blood-type and religion of a firefighter. The cards can be the difference between life and death for a firefighter in distress.

    “They tried to be as personal as they could be,” Chief Girard said.

    Putting his hand on a chest-high sympathy card, Lt. Courtney said, “Somebody drove this thing from Missouri two days after the fire.” It was painted and folded like a greeting card. Somebody dropped it on firefighters headquarters on Dec. 5 with more than 100 firefighters' signatures.

    Sorting through it all, the two firefighters recalled the way Massachusetts came to their support. Fire departments from across the state stepped in and fought Worcester fires, while the Worcester firefighters searched the rubble. When there wasn't anybody from the Fire Department to help them navigate, they inserted people who knew the streets and neighborhoods of Worcester.
    Slideshow of donations.
    http://www.telegram.com/apps/pbcs.dl...ctionCat=local

    http://www.telegram.com/article/2010...39/1101/local#
    A section of fence with items left at the Franklin Street fire scene is in storage. (T&G FILE PHOTO)

  2. #2
    Administrator Neil's Avatar
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    Memorial Quilt

    Lt. Don Courtney opens a quilt sent to the department. (T&G Staff / RICK CINCLAIR)

    http://www.telegram.com/article/2010...39/1101/local#

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    Administrator Neil's Avatar
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    W6 Wood Memorial

    Made by a prisoner.
    photo T&G RICK SINCLAIR

    http://www.telegram.com/article/2010...39/1101/local#

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