Worcester Pushes On With Memorial

Their locations sit less than two miles away from each other, but in many ways, Worcester's Franklin Street Fire Station and the site of the planned Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial and Memorial Park are light years apart.

Both projects are aimed at honoring firefighters Paul A. Brotherton, Jeremiah M. Lucey and Joseph T. McGuirk, and Lts. Timothy P. Jackson Sr., Thomas E. Spencer and James F. "Jay" Lyons III who where killed in the Dec. 3, 1999 blaze at the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co.

Last year, on the ninth anniversary of the fire, the new station -- built on the site where the tragic fire took place -- was dedicated, along with a remembrance wall and sculpture.

The facility cost an estimated $8 million to build but the modest memorial that sits to the left of the firehouse cost right around $100,000. Firefighters have said this is what they wanted, yet the city has pushed forward with the large-scale memorial park that dwarfs what was unveiled last year.

The Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial and Memorial Park would sit on a 8.9-acre site and feature a memorial consisting of six encircled columns leaning toward each other that would shoot rays of light into a common point at night. The design by Watertown, Mass. architecture firm Gala Simon Associates Inc. was selected in September 2004. The overall project, which includes the park surrounding the memorial, is expected to cost between $3.5 million and $5 million to complete.

Last year, before the unveiling of the memorial, Lt. John Daly told Firehouse.com that while the money raised through holding safety seminars and donations from fellow firefighters was initially set aside for the memorial park, the department ultimately decided to put it towards the remembrance wall and sculpture.

"To me, (the dedication wall) is what they wanted," the veteran, who retired from the department earlier this year, said. "They didn't want something abstract. They wanted something that related to firefighters and the work."

Daly, who sat on the city's memorial committee, said that after the committee began meeting shortly after the fire, plans began to expand, and so did the cost.

"It made it really unrealistic," he said.

Michael Carota, chairman of the Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial Committee, said in a statement sent to Firehouse.com that the committee continues to await word on when money will be made available from a commitment of $3.8 million in a state transportation bond bill to finance the memorial park.

He said the committee met as recently as Oct. 24 to review finances and discuss the state bond money and future steps it can take. He noted that an announcement is forthcoming as to when the money will be released by the state to the city.

"Should the state bond money not be released at this time, the committee has agreed to revisit its approach, with an eye toward either another fund-raising avenue or fulfillment of its original goal of memorializing the six fallen firefighters in the most appropriate manner possible with the money remaining," Carota said in the statement.

In a letter sent to the Telegram & Gazette last year leading up to the ninth anniversary, Casey Spencer, daughter of Lt. Thomas E. Spencer, expressed her disgust for the city's plans.

"My father would be as appalled as I am that millions of dollars are being spent on people who do not need it," the young woman, who was only 15 when her father died in the blaze, said in the letter. "My father is dead; a memorial, no matter how beautiful, will not change that fact."

In an e-mailed response to the newspaper, Carota said, "We respect Casey Spencer's opinion, just as we respect the memory of her father and his five fellow Worcester firefighters who died tragically in the fire nine years ago. Everything the committee has done for the past several years has been done with the intention of honoring their memory in the best way possible."