We forget so quickly.
The brave men and women of fire departments everywhere daily put their lives on the line and then suddenly, tragedy strikes.
Yesterday it happened in Boston.
The inscription at a firefighter’s memorial in Boston states it succinctly: “There is the unknown in every fire. You do your job, follow the plan, still something can go wrong.”
Yesterday something went wrong for two Irish American heroes. Firefighters Lieutenant Edward Walsh, 43, married with three kids, and Firefighter Michael Kennedy, 33, a Marine Corps veteran, died in the line of duty.
They lost their lives in a Back Bay neighborhood, in a 9-alarm fire that spread like wildfire fanned by 40-mile-an-hour winds.
“In 30 years, I’ve never seen a fire travel that fast,” said Deputy Fire Chief Edward Finn, “It was like a blow torch.”
Firefighters run towards flames while everyone else runs away.
I will never forget a 9/11 survivor, Cork native Ron Clifford, describing fleeing the burning World Trade Center and watching amazed as fire fighters ran just as fast the other way, towards the deadly flames.
Walsh and Kennedy were no different. Members of Engine 33, they were among the first to arrive. As residents fled Walsh and Kennedy ran towards the fire.
It as like charging into the valley of death. Both men radioed “Mayday” within moments of climbing down into the basement to attack the fire. Fire chiefs believe a window cracked and smashed and the fire fueled by winds was let loose and swept towards the men.
Firefighters rushing to help were beaten back by the ferocious flames.
Edward Finn said the speed of the flames shocked him.
“They weren’t in the building more than two or three minutes when they ordered a Mayday, signaling that they were trapped,” he said.
Two men down. Two more dreadful statistics. Two more reminders of the firefighters' noble tradition – risking their own lives to save the lives of others.
The shadow of 9/11 will always be on the minds of firefighters everywhere.
These two brave men acted in just as heroic a way: selfless, giving and paying the ultimate sacrifice.
The word hero is applied way too liberally in our society to sports stars, celebrities etc. Those who really deserve it, earn it.
Firefighters Walsh and Kennedy have joined their ranks. May they rest in peace.
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