From the Berkshires to Boston, hundreds of firefighters came to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on Dorchester Bay after a difficult year in the fire services.
"Fire continues to take an awful toll here in Massachusetts. Last week, we lost two young boys in Lawrence," said Massachusetts Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. [In] July, seven people died in a Lowell apartment fire. And in March, we lost two firefighters in the Beacon Street fire in Boston."
For firefighters from 10 communities, from the Bay State's smallest departments to its big-city fire brigades, 22 awards were issued for rescues through fierce flames and dense, blinding smoke, for coaxing and grappling to safety troubled souls threatening suicide, for rescuing fellow firefighters trapped in flaming rubble or for extraorindary efforts at fire prevention education.
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These firefighters have done it all - it's all part of the job.
"As members of the fire services, you know that when you start your shift, you're not looking to be front and center," said Undersecretary of Public Safety Kurt Schwartz. "But when the bell rings, you are prepared."
Posthumous medals of honor were awarded to the families of Lt. Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy, lost in the wind-driven Beacon Street blaze in March.
"Committing to serve the public by rushing into harm's way for others is an act and a matter of character," said Gov. Deval Patrick.
Ultimately, these ceremonies are about gratitude - about thanking people who do a very dangerous job.