1. #1
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    Default 307 Firefighters Remembered For Final Sacrifice

    307 Firefighters Remembered For Final Sacrifice
    Relatives Gather At State Fire Academy To Pay Tribute To Those On Memorial Honor Roll

    October 20, 2003
    By CHRISTOPHER KEATING, Courant Staff Writer

    WINDSOR LOCKS -- Joseph O'Connor never knew his father or his uncle, but he felt compelled to travel in the rain Sunday to honor their memory.

    Now 80, O'Connor was only 2 years old when his father - Joseph Sr. - died while fighting a fire on Asylum Avenue in Hartford on Feb. 16, 1926.

    "I didn't know my father, but it's good I came out," O'Connor said Sunday as he looked at his father's name, which was etched into the Memorial Honor Roll at the Connecticut Fire Academy. "I'm glad I did. I wanted to make sure he was here and his name was spelled right."

    O'Connor was among more than 200 family members and firefighters who attended the memorial service to honor those who have died in the line of duty in Connecticut since 1852. The ceremony was moved indoors because of the rain, but family members walked outside to see the listing of 307 firefighters whose names were carved into the stone memorial. The monument was dedicated before the names were engraved, but Sunday's ceremony was the first time that many of the families saw the names of their loved ones.

    Wearing a white cap with a green shamrock, O'Connor walked around the memorial to see the names of his relatives who were both Hartford firefighters. In the days before firefighters routinely wore oxygen masks, O'Connor's father rushed into a building more than 70 years ago without the specialized equipment.

    "He took the hose up to the third floor, and he collapsed there," O'Connor said of his father. "My uncle Jimmy died in 1928. It was a similar circumstance to my father."

    After years of struggle and insufficient fund-raising, firefighters finally were able to construct the memorial after personal intervention by Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell. Rell had seen a newspaper article about the fund-raising problems and immediately called a meeting at her state Capitol office to rally support. She joined the private fund-raising effort and also secured state funds so the memorial could be completed.

    "Without the lieutenant governor, we would not be here today," said Chief Wayne E. Sandford of the East Haven Fire Department, who delivered the keynote speech Sunday.

    Rell, whose husband has been a volunteer firefighter in their hometown of Brookfield for nearly 30 years, was out of state and unable to attend the ceremony. Reached Sunday night by telephone, Rell said she was surprised several years ago when she learned that the state had no appropriate monument to honor fallen firefighters.

    "It was sad that it never was erected. I felt we needed to do something," Rell said. "It's something we hope never to put another name on."

    Chief Sandford was friends with one of those on the monument - former battalion chief Harold Collins, who died from a heart attack on Easter Sunday in 1981 after battling a blaze in East Haven. Those on the memorial with Collins died from a variety of causes, including building collapses, burns, explosions, electrocution, smoke inhalation and motor vehicle accidents at fire scenes.

    "Each was probably patriotic and religious and conservative in their politics," Sandford told the crowd. "I say this because I knew a number of the names" on the monument.

    One of the best-known firefighters on the monument is Edward F. Ramos, a Branford volunteer who died in a flooring store fire on Thanksgiving Day 1996. Prosecutors tried three times for a conviction in the Ramos case, but two of the trials ended in hung juries and a third ended in a mistrial.

    Another was Joseph F. Kirchner, a volunteer in Harwinton who died of a heart attack in December 1992 after handling calls in a heavy storm. His widow, Joan, and daughter Joanne attended the one-hour ceremony and walked outside to view his name on the monument.

    The speakers Sunday noted that some of those on the monument made headlines, while many others did not.

    "These are not just names on a memorial," said Rev. Edward C. Goetz, chaplain of the Connecticut State Firefighters Association. "These are souls who gave their lives and truly made a difference."
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    Wow! It is unfortunate Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell was out of state and unable to attend the memorial. Sounds like she is a true friend of Connecticut firefighters.
    September 11th - Never Forget

    I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

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    Lt Gov Jodi Rell's husband is a volunteer firefighter.
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    Thanks Adze, I missed that the first time around.
    September 11th - Never Forget

    I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

    Sheri
    IACOJ CRUSTY CONVENTION CHAIR
    Honorary Flatlander

    RAY WAS HERE FIRST

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