As pink blooms blew in the wind and down onto the solemn crowd gathered underneath the new memorial Cherry tree at 298 Beacon St. on April 18, it was as if the memory of fallen firefighters Lt. Ed Walsh Jr. and Firefighter Michael Kennedy were approving of the monument dedicated to them by the Garden Club of the Back Bay some five years after they were lost in a fire in the building behind the new tree.
Dozens of firefighters from Engine 33/Ladder 15 in the Back Bay were joined by members of the Garden Club, as well as Mayor Martin Walsh and members of the families of both fallen firefighters.
“In their memory, the Garden Club of the Back Bay will take care of the tree and the tree pit for all the years ahead,” said Sherley Smith, co-president of the Garden Club of the Back Bay.
With members of both families in the audience, including Lt. Walsh’s daughter Morgan Walsh, and tons of firefighters flanking them, Mayor Walsh said he was touched by the memorial because it was generated by the community.
“The firefighters have a motto to never forget the fallen,” he said. “We have the Firefighters’ Memorial and we honor them there. But this is different because this is the community remembering and honoring these men. This community didn’t forget. That’s what makes this different. I want to thank the community for your dedication and ability to turn a very sad day on Beacon Street into a celebratory day on Beacon Street today.”
The fire on Beacon Street broke out on March 26, 2014, and quickly spread into a tremendous fire that drew hundreds of personnel to the site to put out the raging inferno. Within that response were Lt. Walsh of Ladder 15 and Firefighter Kennedy of Engine 33 – both based in the Boylston Street Station in the Back Bay.
While fighting the fire in the basement level, both were overcome by the flames.
“Firefighters are always ready to risk their lives, and Mike and Ed did that five years ago, and we won’t forget,” added Mayor Walsh, who had only been on the job three months when the fire broke out.
Father John Unni of St. Cecilia’s, and the assistant fire chaplain, blessed the tree with Holy Water, and gave a prayer.
Fire Commissioner Joe Finn said firefighters stick together, and it was a welcome gesture that the community added to that brotherhood and sisterhood with the memorial.
“Firefighters are a unique breed,” he said. “We fight amongst ourselves, but on days like today we come together…Garden Club of the Back Bay – thank you so much. It’s a wonderful, wonderful tribute that will live on. There will be a lot of quiet moments here on Beacon Street as firefighters come to see this tree and say a quiet prayer for Mike and Ed.”