East Boston fire memorial remembers 6 forgotten firefighters

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November 15, 2012, 5:12 pm
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(NECN: Greg Wayland) - It was the middle of the night, November 15, 1942, at Luongo's Restaurant in Maverick Square, East Boston.

"About 2 a.m., a night worker discovered a fire in the restaurant kitchen area," said Ted Gerber, with the Boston Fire Historical Society.

A 5-alarm fire ensued. Then, after 4 a.m., the building collapsed.

Over 40 firefighters were injured and six died.

The victims were: Francis "Buddy" Degan, John F. Foley, Edward F. Macomber, Daniel E. Mcquire, Peter F. McMorrow and Malachi F. Reddington.

Now, it is the middle of a blustery day, November 15, 2012, at a street corner just yards away from the scene of the fire.

"We're all participating in a solemn and historic moment in the ongoing history of the city of Boston," said Roderick Fraser, the Boston Fire Commissioner.

Images of all six firefighters are mounted on the modest marble monument near the corner of Henry and Maverick streets.

Nieces and nephews of the victims and dignitaries were present, seated on folding chairs in front of a monument which, at one point, was finally unveiled.

Bagpipers from the Boston Fire Department and Boston Police Department and an honor guard marched into place.

There was a small, respectful sidewalk gathering in front of the shiny new East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, which has provided pictures of the tragedy and hung them in their street-level window.

Finally, for that night, for those deaths, there was a ceremony and a roll call, with each firefighters name and engine company read, with a bell rung after each.

The event stunned a city in wartime, but it was quickly forgotten. Why?

Because just 13 days later came one of the worst fires in U.S. history, also in Boston:  the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire; 492 died.

Attention moved off the cold rubble in East Boston. The injured, forgotten; the six victims, buried and forgotten.

A Tedeschi's convenience store stands on the scene of the fire now. An adjacent apartment building is still standing, but Maverick Square has become a very different place.

For the memorial, someone prepared old postcards, recalling an old Boston neighborhood and the busy Maverick square of today with the bright modern T station in the middle.

But relatives are a living memorial to the lost men.

City Auditor Sally Glora is Buddy Degan's niece. She spoke at the ceremony.

Other Degan and McGuire relatives were there, but even many children of the victims have passed on by now.

"The presence of each of you here today stands as a testament that even these many years later, that we the people of Boston have not forgotten the sacrifice made by each of these brave men," said Glora.

The forgotten fire is forgotten no longer.

Tags: Fire, firefighters, Greg Wayland, luongo's restaurant, maverick square, francis buddy degan, john f. foley, edward f. macomber, daniel e. mcquire, peter f. mcmorrow, malachi f. reddington, tedeschi's convenience store, east boston fire memorial
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