Boston firefighters escort the casket carrying Lt. Edward Walsh.
Photo credit: Photo by Jeffrey Hastings
Firefighters salute as the casket is carried from the church.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa
April 02--The loved ones and brother firefighters of a fallen Boston hero have gathered at St. Patrick's Church in Watertown for his funeral service this morning, as thousands of jakes from around the country line the streets outside, side by side with heartbroken Bay Staters, to pay tribute to Lt. Edward J. Walsh Jr.
"We are grateful that you have come to pay your respects to a fallen brother," the Rev. Robert Casey, chaplain of the Boston Fire Department, told those assembled in the church where Walsh was baptized as an infant.
Walsh, 43, died one week ago in a Beacon Street blaze that also took the life of Boston firefighter Michael Kennedy and left 13 firefighters injured.
"We are here for you," the chaplain told Walsh's widow Kristen, three children and mother Joan Walsh. "We are here for you, hoping that our presence and our prayers will somehow lessen the loss of this wonderful husband, father, brother and firefighter."
The lieutenant's children are all under age 10.
This morning, family members -- including a child wearing a small red firefighter's coat and helmet -- and firefighters filled the front rows of the pews of St. Patrick's. At least one firefighter walked down the aisle with bandages wrapping his head.
"This has been a week when we've had to tap into God and God's healing presence," the Rev. John Unni told the mourners. His church, St. Cecilia, shares Copley Square with Walsh's historic and beloved firehouse, and the priest often broke bread and shared stories with Walsh and his crew.
Unni spoke warmly and directly about their loss to Walsh's small children and to his fellow jakes.
"Who's Eddie Walsh to you?" he said. "I heard things this week: 'He was my best friend,' 'He was always coaching.' 'He loved his wife and kids.' 'He was a gentle giant.' 'He was a firefighter's firefighter.' Valued, respected, you never heard a bad word about him."
The priest told Walsh's Engine 33 comrades, reeling from their loss in the 9-alarm conflagration: "Whatever guilt anyone is carrying about what should have been done, could have been done, know that you were where you were supposed to be, doing what you should have done, and things just went a different way."
Walsh's casket, draped with the flag of the Boston Fire Department, was brought to the church by Fire Engine 33, draped in black bunting. The engine drove through the streets of Watertown, followed by hundreds of bagpipers under the arched ladders of fire engines and preceded by his brother Michael, who walked the route carrying his brother's honorary helmet. It made its way past the firehouse where his uncle and father once worked, winding through streets lined by silent mourners and saluting police and firefighters.
The truck was met at the foot of the front stairs of the church by a formation of firefighters and bagpipe players in a shape resembling a heart.
Kennedy's wake will be held tonight, and his funeral will be held tomorrow, both in West Roxbury.
On the back of the funeral service program for both men is the Firefighter's Prayer, which ends: "And if, according to Your will
While on duty I must answer death's call/Bless with your protecting hand/My family, one and all."
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