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am 14. Dezember 2002
The title at the beginning of these comments is from St. Florian, and was on a medal recovered from the spot where one of the men fighting this fire died. The medal should not have survived, silver melts at 1,600 degrees, a body is incinerated at 1,800 degrees, and the heat in the building had reached 3,000 degrees.
I came to read this book from a rather unusual direction. Worth Magazine just did a profile of the most generous Americans, not necessarily those who gave the most money, but as a percentage of what they have, their reasons, and other intangibles beside the traditional yardstick of amount only. Actor/comedian and member of this very special group is Dennis Leary. Of the 6 men who died in this fire, one was his cousin and another was a childhood friend. His foundation has raised $2 million for firefighters in Worcester MA and NYC. His organization was cutting checks 3 months after September 11th in NYC; he has no use for bean counters.
Sean Flynn's book, "3000 Degrees", is easily one of the most powerful books I have read in 2002, it is the first of many books I will now read on Firemen, and others who put themselves in lethal harm's way, for the rest of us. As I read this book, I asked the same question I often ask when men and women put the lives of others before their own, not for a single moment, but every day, for years and often for decades. Some members of a team are the rescue members, and these men enter the building without any fire fighting equipment, like hoses, to protect themselves. They go in looking for victims and are unprotected against flame and other lethalities except by their experience and luck. They are in a burning building looking for you and me before the houses may even be turned on.
Firemen are not drafted; they are not military, although some served prior to becoming Firefighters. The serve their own communities, but adjacent ones when needed, and generally walk in to situations that may kill them to save people they do not know, or to be sure a building is empty of persons. The latter was the case on December 3, 1999. Six men died in a building that was boarded up, and devoid of human life. It had many lives within it for several hours, and then 6 lives became the only bodies that the building would ever contain.
Tim Jackson, Joe McGuirk, Paul Brotherton, Jay Lyons, Tom Spencer, and Jerry Lucey died, because as one person involved in the fire wondered, that 6 of his friends had died because, "two misfits were too scared to dial 911". These misfits not only started the fire, accidentally, they did not report it, but because it is not against the law to fail to report a fire in Massachusetts, even if you started it, neither person was convicted of anything.
Now Julie and Tom continue to live their lives which up until the night they started this fire were notable only for the similarities they shared. They were the personification of life's losers, living illegally, living in filth, living any way they chose as long as it required nothing from them, no effort. And if that meant going to jail, breaking the law, and living in their own filth like no animal would do, that was what they did.
They killed these 6 men by their actions, even if you call their act one of omission as opposed to commission, the men are dead, and Julie and Tom started the fire, Julie and Tom ran, and Julie and Tom did not bother to let anyone know the building they illegally were squatting in was empty. That their illegal residence was barely worth the water to contain the blaze, much less the lives of 6 men, a host of new widows, and a large number of now fatherless children, never occurred to Julie and Tom.
They went to Media Play and listened to music while the fire spread, books were out for Tom, he's illiterate. And while the candle falling over and causing the fire was called an accident, it probably would not have fallen if Tom did not try to force himself on Julie. Tom was in the mood, Julie was not, so 6 men died.
The men who fought this fire and died and those who fought it and lived are all remarkable people. They are people that few of us can measure up to. Are you willing to take a job where you place your life at risk every day, not for fame, or money, or even job security? I don't think you are; I'm not.
Firemen are willing to make the sacrifice, so are Policemen and women. So the next time you are tempted to park in front of a hydrant, don't, next time you get nailed for speeding, take the ticket, call the officer sir or mam, and act like an adult. Don't whine because your radar/laser detector did not allow you to get away with speeding. Want to speed, pay the ticket; don't blame the officer who stops you.
30,000 Firefighters from all over the world came to Worcester to pay their respects to these men and the families that were left behind. So the next time you pass a Firehouse, think about the people in side, you probably don't know them, and they don't know you. Would you die for them, they are prepared to die for you, every minute of every day.
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