Photos+text by Rosalie Tirella
Worcester – Thousands of firemen and firewomen from all corners of America lined Temple and Green streets this early afternoon – six deep – to bid farewell to WFD fireman Lt. Jason Menard who died going above and beyond the call of duty last week while saving two lives in a fire on Stockholm Street. An American hero, he gave his life for theirs.
The hundreds and hundreds and hundreds!! of firemen honored their Lt. Menard through music, pageantry – and by bussing into Worcester to stand for two hours in the raw New England cold, a hint of drizzle always in the air, waiting, waiting for the casket set atop the fire engine, a casket covered in blue to solemnly pass before them to give the final salute … Yet their spirits were high! They were strong! – together!! – mitigating their loss through bonhomie! And sometimes swigs of beer from the bottles they got at the barrooms that line Green Street!
Before the procession came through, a gaggle of firemen (fire chiefs?) walked all the way down Green Street, in the middle of the street, inspecting their men who stood on the sidewalks on either side … and to order the men, in clipped tones of voice: “LOCK IT UP! LOCK IT UP!” The hundreds of firemen immediately fell into silent attention at the barked commands. They stood looking American: black, white, Latino, Italian, Vietnamese, Irish, gray haired, long locks, male, female, heavy, skinny …
Men in their navy blue dress firemen uniforms and white gloves hugging each other in the thin gray sunlight, slapping each others’ shoulders in the cold. The badges sewn on the sleeves of their coats and jackets signified where they were from: New York City, Baltimore, Boston, Millbury, Shrewsbury, Rhode Island, Washington state.