Thursday, April 03, 2014

Taking Time to Pay Respect


Note for those who need to know: I submitted this to the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe, but neither could place it. It's just one of those things; pages are planned a day or so in advance, it wasn't something that could be inserted on the fly, and using it later wouldn't have the impact it has now. This concerns the deaths of Ed Walsh and Michael Kennedy, Boston Firefighters. Walsh's funeral was taking place in Watertown, where I live. I think that's all the background you need, but  if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Taking Time to Pay Respect

I was giving MY WIFE a ride to Harvard Square, where she catches the Red Line to work. Nothing unusual. Then traffic backed up on Mount Auburn Street. I hadn't remembered that we'd pass the funeral home. There, parked on the street, were Ladder 15 and Engine 33, draped in black bunting. It was a sobering sight and it put things into perspective. No matter how long the ride took today, it would be fast enough.

Maybe 15 minutes more than normal, I dropped off MY WIFE. Heading home, I spotted two firefighters in dress uniform, standing at a bus stop. I pulled over and asked if they needed a ride to Watertown. They accepted.

I asked them their names and where they were from. They were Mike and Zach, members of the Bridgeport Fire Department in Connecticut. They traveled via AMTRAK early in the morning, then took the T to Harvard, and had been waiting for the 71 bus when I spotted them. They were, of course, trying to get to Saint Patrick's for Ed Walsh's funeral.

We exchanged small talk. They told me how nice the Boston guys were who had come to attend a service in their area a while back. I told them about friends on the BFD with whom I play softball. I asked about their accommodations for the night. They said they had none; they were taking the train back that evening. And they planned to repeat the trip tomorrow, for Michael Kennedy.

We made good time until Watertown. Traffic was being directed away from Mount Auburn to another road. Fine for me, but not so much for getting these guys to Saint Patrick's. I tried to see if we might be allowed through. I pointed to the two firefighters in my car, but the traffic cop shook his head no and sent us on the detour.

Mike and Zach apologized, concerned about me getting home, losing my time. I told them not to worry.

I used some of my local knowledge to skirt traffic, but avoiding it completely was impossible. My two passengers offered to hoof it to the church, but they didn't realize how far they still had to go. I again reassured them I didn't mind.

We finally got within a block of Watertown Square. I asked a traffic cop how close I could get these firemen to the church. He suggested I pull through a nearby alley, closed to traffic. I thanked him, but as I was turning into it, I saw a parked car blocking it. I now agreed with Mike and Zach that it was probably best if they walk the remaining quarter-mile. They thanked me, got out, and started walking.

It was thirty minutes more before I reached Watertown Square. Once I was able to drive past Main Street, I saw the sea of blue uniforms. Firefighters lined the street six and seven deep, as far as the eye could see. Mike and Zach were in there somewhere. They'll travel home, then travel back to West Roxbury for Michael Kennedy.

I'm usually able to give MY WIFE a ride, and then get home, in twenty minutes. Today it took an hour-and-a-half. It was fast enough.

###

So, I'm sorry I couldn't get this published, but I'm happy to have someplace to put it where folks can read it and enjoy it.

Soon, with more better stuff.

19 comments:

Michelle H. said...

A wonderful story. Too bad you nobody took it.

Karen said...

Thank you, Jim.

Buck said...

Well done, Jim.

Daryl said...

you are mensch and i am so proud to know you

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

Bacon

Hilary said...

Beautifully done, Jim. I'm sorry you weren't able to sell it but I'm very glad you shared it with us.

Linda Kogut said...

Jim, That is an amazing story. I am so pleased you were able to help those guys out. It was a privilege and an honor for me to attend FF Michael Kennedy's service today. I met many wonderful Mikes and Zachs from all over the country and the world. Fire Fighters are so special. Luann sent me your story. My mother, Frances Walsh Farquhar was very close friends with Eleanor Welsh Purin. I am so glad that Donna found herself one of the good guys. Keep up the good work linda farquhar kogut

Maggie May said...

That was brilliant of you to offer these firefighters a lift and that meant giving up such a lot of your time.
I'm sure they really appreciated your kindness.
Beautifully written story.
Maggie x

Nuts in May

Jenny Woolf said...

Well, thanks for posting here for us - great piece. IMO it's their loss for not buying.

messymimi said...

It makes me glad to know that there are still compassionate and helpful people in the world, and that you are one of them.

Jackie said...

You are a good man with a good heart...,

silly rabbit said...

=:]

Pat - Arkansas said...

Wonderful! The newspapers' loss is definitely our gain. Thanks, Jim!

barbicakes said...

My heart goes out to the families of the fallen. I hate reading of course that this happens, but we live in a world where it always will.
To take the time to give those guys a ride no matter how long it took was what we should do on any other day. But this day was different.
It changed a course in time and your routine becomes not routine?
I went to boston in the 90's one time. There is something about that place ….if I could move anywhere it would be there….

Out on the prairie said...

these guys live with life and death daily, so the final tribute offers solace in their lives

Stephen Hayes said...

A warm and heartfelt post. I always get a lump in my throat when I see firemen and policemen gather from around the country to attend these funerals. Such camaraderie.

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

I'm glad I got to read it. Thanks.

joeh said...

Too bad it didn't sell, but a POTW confirms the Globe missed out.

Barbara said...

I think they should have taken it, but I'm glad you posted it here and that Hilary directed me back to it since I've gotten behind on my reading. On behalf of the rest of us, thanks for giving them that ride!