Boston Firefighters’ Legacy Continues Year After Fire

The Boston Globe reports (http://bit.ly/1N0uJ7z) Kristen Walsh still wears her husband’s sweat shirts and his New England Patriots hat. She sleeps with his wedding band beside her bed. And, a year after Boston Fire Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr.’s death, she still talks to him. She says, “Thank you,” when she feels him watching out for her or their three young children, and she tells him, “I love you.”

When Kathy Crosby-Bell walks into the Boylston Street firehouse where her son, Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, was stationed on that windy March day, and left with Walsh to answer their last alarm, she can practically see him, walking toward her down the stairs.

“There are times when I feel like he’s standing right next to me,” she said. “Those are my favorite times.”

On Sunday, two plaques will be dedicated in honor of Walsh and Kennedy during a public ceremony at the Back Bay fire station.

Throughout the building, their faces smile from photos on walls, mantles, and kitchen whiteboards. Walsh squints and grins into the flash of a camera in a curling photograph taped to a locker; Kennedy in his fire helmet looks over his shoulder in a picture stuck to a poster board in the office. A painting propped above a set of speakers shows the two men side by side, looking serene against a cloudy sky, angel wings blooming from their shoulders and halos hovering over their heads.

“Wherever you walk, there’s a reminder, ” Captain James Welsh told the Globe. Here, he said, their spirits are “palpable.”

On March 26, 2014, 43-year-old Walsh, 33-year-old Kennedy, and the rest of the firefighters on duty at the Engine 33 and Ladder 15 firehouse rushed to what they thought was a routine fire at 298 Beacon St. But within minutes of their arrival, fierce winds blowing in off the Charles River whipped the flames into a nine-alarm inferno, and Walsh and Kennedy got trapped in the basement. They screamed for water. They pleaded, “Come and get us.” Then they were silent.

“I think it’s changed us,” Welsh said, according to the report. “We’re inspired more than ever to be good at what we do, to serve the people of the city in a way that reflects their sacrifice, and to train hard, serve well, and be good men.”

Thursday will mark the first anniversary of the blaze, and friends and families will mourn, pray, and remember the men privately. The year has been full of terrible firsts – birthdays and holidays and summer days without Walsh or Kennedy. But it has also been filled with messages of love and support from people around the world; the creation of two charities in the men’s honor; and moments of comfort, where the families of Walsh and Kennedy say they sense them close by, looking out, like they always did.

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