The Worcester Tragedy: The Memorial Service

In what was perhaps the largest gathering of fire service personnel in history, firefighters from around the world paid tribute to their fallen Worcester comrades.They came by car, bus and by train, jet, from near and far, from all over the world to attend the Memorial Service for the Worcester six. It was perhaps the largest gathering of firefighters at any time during the 350-year history of the American Fire Service. No one has been able to come up with a similar occurrence.

The firefighters gathered two miles from the Worcester Centrum Center, where the service was to be held. The line of march grew longer every time another department’s contingent arrived at the staging area. While it looked like a huge crowd for blocks and blocks, when the firefighters came to a specific spot they were directed into lines of no more than six across. The once-huge throng of firefighters effortlessly became a well disciplined marching procession.

As the firefighters made their way down the avenue, school children, off for the day, held up signs honoring the Worcester firefighters and other firefighters as well. Utility workers stood at attention as the contingent marched past their raised boom trucks in honor of the fallen firefighters. All you could hear during the entire solemn march was the local church bells and TV news helicopters.

Virtually all of the city shut down for the day. Hundreds of police officers from several states stopped traffic at every intersection and assisted with crowd control and out-of-town firefighters’ parking. Every time an American flag passed, firefighters and police officers saluted. Two firehouses where the fallen firefighters worked were part of the route to the center.

As the march approached the arena, Worcester Ladder 1 and 2 were raised and an American flag was hung from their aerial ladders. This was just near the Worcester Central Division located across the street from the Centrum Center. Inside, only some out-of-town firefighters were able to get a seat. The others had to stand outside and listen and watch. Even though the beginning of the service was delayed, firefighters were still marching toward the site when the service began. The service was shown live on TV.

For those who could not make it and watched, these words cannot begin to describe the somber march and the emotional memorial service.