December 7, 1999
A Personal Viewpoint
By Steven S. Greene, Executive Producer
"America's Heroes: The Volunteers of Fire/Rescue"
It has often been said that you can take the boy out of the firehouse, but
you will never take the firehouse out of the boy. Today, anyone who has ever
had any sort of affiliation with the fire service walks with a saddened and
aching heart. The deaths of our six brothers from Worcester, Massachusetts,
have struck a somber chord in all of us. Not since 1994, when fourteen of
our colleagues perished while fighting a raging forest fire in Colorado,
have we so collectively mourned the loss of colleagues.
I grew up just a few miles away from Worcester, in Framingham, MA. Like most
young boys, I too was fascinated by fire engines and trucks, visiting a fire
station whenever and wherever I could. That included one station in
Worcester, when my family would make the drive to visit the old SPAG's store
or a Stop & Shop out that way. This was the beginning of my affinity before
I ever joined a fire department.
In June 1972, I was in college and living only a few miles down Commonwealth
Avenue from the Hotel Vendome. I remember driving into Boston and standing
quietly as the search progressed. In the early 1980's, while serving with
the DeWitt, NY Fire Dept., four brothers from Buffalo made the supreme
sacrifice when a propane tank exploded in a BLEVE at the scene of a house
fire. I remember the tears rolling down our faces as together, we placed the
black bunting on the firehouse and mourning bands on our badges. And on our
web site, each time we add a new name to the listing on "The Bravest of the
Brave" page, our LODD listing, it is as if a sharp knife has pierced my
>From across the globe, notes, mail and other messages of condolences have
poured across cyberspace and surface communications to the families of the
fallen heroes and to their comrades in the Worcester Fire Department. Others
have made the commitment to physically be present in Worcester, whether as
fill-in and/or relief crews, to allow Worcester firefighters to search for
and find their own, or to be present as part of the Honor Guard on Thursday,
December 9th for the memorial service at the Worcester Centrum arena.
Before this tragedy occurred this past Friday, many of us casually scroll
and read through the various articles and forums on our favorite fire/rescue
service websites, like Firehouse.Com or Emergency GrapeVine.Com and others.
As we do, we are bound to see the ongoing debate in the subject of volunteer
vs. career personnel. Most of the time, the comments are thoughtful and
insightful. Others might not always be of the same quality. Be that as it
may, when the bells ring, the gongs sound and the pagers beep, the men and
women who proudly wear the Maltese Cross, whether for vocation or avocation,
answer the alarm.
But Death sees no difference between career and volunteer personnel. And
neither do sorrow and grief. If we could, every one of us would be in
Worcester, MA right now, assisting in moving every brick, every beam and
every girder, in the effort to recover our comrades and honorably bring them
to their final resting place.
Tragedy should never be the impetus behind change and modification. Rather,
it should be our insight, our sense of dedication, loyalty and tradition
that points us in the right way. On Thursday, thousands of us will be in
Worcester, in crisp, sharp dress uniforms and with tear-stained faces. We
will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, career firefighter, volunteer firefighter,
career EMS, and volunteer EMS. And thousands, if not tens of thousands, more
of us, who cannot travel to Worcester, will pause and reflect, heads bowed,
with a prayer on our lips and tears in our eyes, as well. For the icy cold,
dark pall of Death reaches out to every one of us who has served or
currently serves our communities, dedicated to saving the lives and property
of our neighborhoods.
May the memories of Lt. Thomas E. Spencer, FF Timothy P. Jackson, FF James
F. Lyons, FF Joseph T. McGuirk, FF Paul A. Brotherton and FF Jeremiah M.
Lucey and all that they stood for serve as a blessing to their families and
as an inspiration to us all and may they rest in peace under the Lord's
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