By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper, 4/2014
This past week, less than one year after the Marathon bombing and its horrible aftermath, the city of Boston is grieving again.
As you all know, a nine alarm fire on Beacon Street in Boston claimed the lives of two firefighters. There have been memorials, tributes, and by the time this column runs, these two fallen heroes will be laid to rest. Their families and friends lives will never be the same.
But they will never be forgotten.
Not too far from Beacon Street, a few years back, a high school buddy of mine and I were walking the Commonwealth Mall area, a tree-lined park running alongside Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. We came upon the memorial to the nine firefighters who had died in the Hotel Vendome fire of 1972.
I honestly got chills standing there that day, looking at the bronze firefighter helmet and coat, so near where these brave heroes had fallen.
Last week, once again, the heroes ran INTO the fire, INTO the danger, to battle the blaze, and try to save lives and property.
These brave men and women do what most of us could NEVER do. Their courage is immeasurable. And if you talk to any firefighter, any police officer, any first responder, they will usually humbly defer any complements of them being, “courageous” with a sincere response that they are just doing their job.
Most of us go to work each day have a very real certainty that we are coming home that night alive. Police, fire fighters, and first responders cannot say the same. Most days might be mundane, but there is always that chance, there is always that possibility, that while they are out there, “just doing their jobs,” they are NOT coming home.
I would like to offer this to each of you today: THANK THEM. Obviously, don’t bother them if they are “on the job” in the middle of something, but if you happen to see a police officer, fire fighter or first responder, and they are able to talk for a moment, SAY THANK YOU for what they do. Let them know how much you appreciate them.
There are absolutely no words to convey the loss of these two brave men who perished in Boston this week, protecting us, “just doing their job.” But I would remind each of us to thank the people who keep us safe.
Most of us could never do the job they do.
It usually takes a tragedy like this, young lives cut short so quickly, to make us stop and realize how very lucky we are that there are men and women who are courageous, who will step up, and take on the responsibility of protecting the rest of us. To paraphrase something Bruce Springsteen once said, “It is a debt we can never repay, and it is a debt we cherish.”
May Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr., and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy rest in peace, know God’s tender mercy, and may their families, friends, and brothers and sisters on the job be comforted by our profound gratitude for their sacrifice and heroism.
Today is a new day. You get to enjoy it because other brave people are out there protecting you. God bless every first responder, every police officer, and every firefighter. We can never thank you enough, but we resolve to keep you in our prayers, our thoughts, and our hearts.
THANK YOU for what you do. May God keep you safe.