Tag Archives: memorial

Memory

There is a memorial plaque in town. I pass it regularly. I remember.

I remember a sunny Saturday morning drilling at the firehouse.

I remember swearing loudly and running to the engine when the tones dropped.

I remember almost overshooting the address, and I remember the horrid moaning sound the engine's radial tires made as we literally skidded to a stop.

I remember leaping from the still-moving engine.

I remember the Doppler effect as the following ambulance shot past us, siren wailing, unable to stop in time.

 

I remember a tall staircase, narrow but straight.

I remember a tiny bedroom with too many rescuers in it.

I remember compressions, and ventilations, and “No shock advised.”

I remember an ambulance disappearing over the horizon.

 

I remember futility.

I remember we were too late.

I remember.

 

Memorial Day

“Fire Alarm to responding units, the caller reports the patient is turning blue.”

It’s a ‘nice’ neighborhood; one where we don’t often see an overdose. We arrive in the kitchen of a well-kept single family home to find the firefighters manually breathing for our patient. He’s not our usual heroin overdose patient, either. He’s in his mid-twenties, well fed, well groomed, and surrounded by caring and concerned family. With one fresh track mark on his arm.
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Five roads – P365 for January 17, 2010

A wide state road crosses rolling countryside in the pre-dawn darkness. I roll along at the speed limit, following a dim set of tail lights on the horizon ahead.

I have a date with a sunrise.

Houses emerge from the darkness and flash past; red brick farms with large white porches, small modulars and trailer parks, an abandoned motel. With the radio off and the sunroof open, I am one with the cold morning.

Billboards blink in and out of existence. Been in an accident? Call us. Don’t drink and drive. Call Joe for oil, or propane, or plumbing repairs. Hank’s used cars. Franks Farm Equipment and Furniture (really). McDonald’s ahead.

I haven’t eaten breakfast, but the dawn will not wait.

John Cleese warns of a roundabout ahead. A large brick inn stands at the dark crossroads, with a modern 24-hour gas station glowing in glaring red neon from across the street. I roll onward.

The houses encroach on each other, forming rows of brick duplexes as I approach the famous junction of five roads. Another roundabout.

The village quickly falls away again, replaced by split rail fences. I am alone in the darkness, passing through rolling fields of history. Even the ghosts are quiet this morning.

I arrive at my destination with time to spare. I climb the tower in the pre-dawn twilight to wait.

And my date stands me up. The appointed time arrives with merely a change in the level of light. Gray clouds mask the horizon, and the rain begins. It matters not. I have stood with the ghosts in the silence of the night and looked across the fields, ridges, and hills. Spectacular photos are not to be; the memorial is enough.

Four shots ring out across the battlefield in slow succession, echoing off the hills to my back. A hunter perhaps, or a re-enactor. Perhaps an acknowledgement of my visit by those who have never left.

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Longstreet's artillery await a charge which will never come

W6

The phone rang as we walked into the kitchen. “Isn’t it awful what happenned to those poor Worcester firemen?” my wife’s grandmother asked.

We had been away all weekend, and in the days before smartphones, Facebook, and Twitter, we hadn’t heard. The TV was no use on a Sunday evening, so we were sent running to the internet connection. Firehouse.com and NECN were telling a story almost too horrific to believe.

At 18:13 hours on Friday, December 3, 1999, Worcester Fire Alarm struck box 1438 for the Worcester Cold Storage building at 266 Franklin Street. Before the night was over, six firefighters would perish inside the hulking, windowless six-story maze of a building. Two would lose their way while searching for possible occupants; four more would die attempting to rescue them. And a district chief would be forced to stand in a doorway, face his men, and tell them, “No more.”

There is a famous photo of that night, showing fire towering into the sky in the shape of a silhouetted firefighter.

Memories of the week come in snippets for me. We checked the internet regularly; news seemed to break minute by minute, all of it grim. It took eight days to recover all six bodies.

The memorial service was held six days after the fire. They say 30,000 of us attended. President Clinton and Senator Kennedy gave speeches. I don’t remember a word of what the President said. Senator Kennedy gave a moving address featuring the poem, “Brother, when you weep for me. . .”

It seemed like the whole city turned out in mourning. People lined the entire route of the procession. We marched about a mile from the assembly point to the Worcester Centrum (now DCU Center) for the service. The city remained silent except for one lone church bell, tolling over and over as we walked.

Firemen don’t march in lock-step like an army. Thousands of feet in patent-leather shoes walked independently, creating a rippling wave of sound as we crossed the city. Silence, church bells, and thousands of footfalls. Nothing else.

One visual image remains strong: the power company linemen. They had lined up their trucks in a vacant lot, booms extended. They stood at attention in front of them, holding their hardhats over their hearts as we passed.

Our group was among the last to enter the arena; we were literally in the furthest back row. Bagpipes played; a choir sang ‘Amazing Grace.’ I don’t remember a lot of the details, only the raw emotions.

After the ceremony, many went down to visit the fire site. It was within walking distance of the arena, and recovery efforts were still ongoing. Our group stayed away, letting the recovery go on in peace.

District Chief McNamee has retired in the intervening years. The city has built a fire station on the site, and later today they will dedicate a memorial there. We all still carry the ‘W6′ decals on our helmets and the memories in our hearts.

So remember, as you wipe your tears,
The joy I knew throughout the years,
As I did the job I loved to do,
I pray that thought will see you through.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

FF Paul Brotherton, Rescue 1
FF Jeremiah Lucey, Rescue 1
Lt Thomas Spencer, Ladder 2
Lt Timothy Jackson, Ladder 2
FF James Lyons, Engine 3
FF Joseph McGuirk, Engine 3

Post #100

Last night I was happy to notice that I’d achieved 99 posts here at Notes. I made big plans for #100; I’d have a success story; something happy; and given the date, something for which to be thankful.  Then my day took a left turn. Straight into the Jersey barriers.

Chang came to us in May of 2008 as a foster cat. She and her brother Smokey had lived together in one home for 12 years before being surrendered to the shelter. Their owner gave them up because she was afraid her elderly mother would trip over them.

I can’t imagine owning an animal for 12 years then giving it up, but her loss was our gain.
Chang’s prognosis was poor when she came to us. She was in renal failure and weighed less than 4 pounds. She was listed as a hospice case and was only expected to live a few weeks. We nursed her back to health with chicken fingers and yogurt, and she won our hearts.
Smokey didn’t get along well with our cats. He went back to the shelter shortly and found a great placement with an elderly couple. Last we heard he was doing well.

Chang, meanwhile, continued to gain weight. She topped six pounds, and got along well with our other cats. Her kidney failure retreated. We decided to adopt and make an honest cat out of her.
I’ve written about the impact of our animals on our lives before. Chang became a cuddly lap cat, riding around the house on my shoulders whenever possible. We began to discover a lot of Shelby’s traits in her. We’d never known how many of Shel’s quirks were really Siamese traits.
In short, we discovered that we were Siamese people and that we’d met an exceptional Siamese.  There’s no point in detailing everything; she became a beloved part of our colony.
Less than a month ago, the renal failure returned with a vengeance. She began to lose weight again, and the vet found her lab values off the charts. She spent a few days inpatient at the clinic, then came home again to share whatever time we had left.  The first night home was awful. She had two seizures, and we feared she might not survive until morning. But Siamese are stubborn.
Chang rallied, and our lives became a roller-coaster. We had ups and downs, good days and bad. We administered medications and fluids. We didn’t know how long this could continue, but we were determined to keep on as long as she had a good quality of life. If she wasn’t giving up, neither would we.
Five days ago she stopped eating, even her favorite people foods. She lost almost half of her weight, but she was still feisty with a wonderful spark in her eyes.
Until this morning.
She could barely lift her head, and the spark was visibly fading.  It was time.
We held her and comforted her at the vet’s office. She purred one last time for my wife, something she hadn’t done in days. We stayed with her, petting and comforting, until the end.
Chang’s soul broke its earthly bonds at 12:34 this afternoon, peacefully and painlessly. I know she’s not suffering anymore, but she left a huge hole in our hearts.
It’s not the post I’d planned, but I am thankful for the time we shared. Thanks for reading.
I’ll live this life until this life won’t let me live here anymore,
Then I will walk, yes I will walk with patience through that open door.
I have no fear, angels follow me wherever I may go.
I’ll live this life until this life won’t let me live here anymore.

Rest in peace, little Meezer.