Remembering Worcester: My Friends

I'm heading up to Massachusetts tomorrow to visit some friends. Not just any friends, but a group of very special men.

My trip will take me to Worcester, where on Dec. 3, 1999, at box 1438, six men lost their lives fighting a fire at the Worcester Cold Storage warehouse. I never met those men and I never will, but as things turned out I did meet some other firefighters from Worcester. I met Mike McNamee, Walter Giard, Andy White, Kevin Maloney, John Sullivan, John Daly, Joe Blanchard, Joe Gaffney, Paul LaRochele and many more. They were firefighter, company officers and chiefs. They all knew and loved and worked with the six men that were lost that day and they all stepped up and started something that is still happening today.

They started a memorial seminar series that was presented right there in Worcester. They invited a bunch of fire service guys from many different departments to present at the seminars. Butch Cobb and Pete Griese from Jersey City, Mike Smith from DC, Vinny Dunn, Mickey Conboy, Mike Dugan, John Norman, Bobby Knabbe, Bobby Athanas and I from New York and others. They did six seminars in six years for the six heroes, and while these seminars were being planned and presented, seeds were being sown.

As the years went by we all started to really get to know each other and friendships just happened. Two years after the Worcester tragedy we suffered the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and our friends from Worcester were there for us too. As time wore on some of us began retiring and others got promoted. Lots of things have changed in the years since the Worcester tragedy and September 11th, but some things have not.

We've all been "together" for well over 10 years now and I feel like I've known the men from Worcester forever. We all decided a few years ago that we should get together every year, no matter what is happening to see each other, catch up on what's happening, tell a few jokes and sit down to break bread. And we do. We rotate our little meeting each year from Worcester to the New York/New Jersey area and back and forth. We were all set to meet for this past year in early December when another firefighter, Jon Davies of Worcester Rescue 1, was killed fighting a fire on December 9. Many of us went back again for a funeral in Worcester, and of course our get together was cancelled. But as planned, we all checked our calendars and made some calls and juggled some appointments and selected a new date for our trip to Worcester.

Boy, I can't wait to see my friends!