The City of Boston lost two firefighters Wednesday evening.
A winter that has been brutal and unrelenting spat one last blast at the state Wednesday. The worst snow hit Nantucket, which got more than 9 inches worth, and wind gusts up to 83 mph. Most of the snow stayed offshore.
But the wind slashed across the state. That wind served as gasoline for a Back Bay fire in a brownstone two homes down from Tom Brady's place.
We drove right by it just a few hours before it ignited. Investigators are still looking for a cause. The blaze jumped from relatively routine to the max 9 alarms very swiftly. It raged for hours, whipped by those hellion winds, and stealing 33-year-old Eddie Walsh and 43-year-old father of three Michael Kennedy.
A Walsh and a Kennedy. How Boston.
Fires have ravaged this city from time to time. Part of the roads I drive several times a week are built on the bones of detritus from fires that were pushed into piles as landfill.
Boston knows tragedy -- we're getting ready to remember one in just a few weeks. Walsh was going to participate in the 2014 Marathon.
Out of that "fire" emerged a slogan: Boston Strong. This city has an iron will; it's people are tough. I think the phrase "tough love" must have come from Boston. A co-worker recently laughingly pointed out that "We eat your Southern Hospitality for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert."
I don't know what causes the iciness here... tradition? The winters? Old-world mores? 400 years of "going it alone?" Is it an Irish thing? It's not the best quality to have. People are disrespectful of one another and their surroundings. People wantonly throw trash in the streets. They drive stupidly at best and selfishly at worst. They don't understand personal space. They aren't always neighborly.
This isn't true ALL the time, but it's probably true most of the time.
What's interesting is that every now and then, however, humanity wins. Unfortunately, this happens after tragedies. I've seen it after the Marathon bombings, weather-related hardships, and some horrific local crimes like the Puppy Doe case, the Amy Lord murder, the Colleen Ritzer murder, and now this fire.
In the aftermath of those things, people make eye contact, they hold the door open for people, they let people cut into traffic, they start makeshift memorials, they donate blood or time or money or more or all of the above.
A lot of talk these days is about how there are "takers" in society and that these people are just welfare cheats and layabouts who contribute nothing to the common good. To which I say: Yep. Some people suck.
But it's very unlikely we're ever going to be able to eliminate these parasites from our lives. There's a deadbeat enclave near South Station that I see a few times a week. One woman I call "Cryface." She looks sad and convincingly upset about her plight.
Yet I see her with different clothes and outerwear. And she recently had her hair colored. And she makes enough to buy cigarettes. And she and others carry the same sign: "I need $32 to get back home."
I mean... in all this time, surely she's raised $32? I feel like giving her $32 and saying "I never wanna see you out here again."
Tangent, sort of.
I believe she's chosen this perch as her job. I think she might be one of those "takers" and it pisses me off more than it makes me sad about the actual homeless people I've seen sleeping on cold benches near the Federal Building.
These people are in every city. I hope they manage to achieve a better life. I've given food (not money) to these people. You can't really buy cigarettes or booze with a cheeseburger, so that's my best solution.
How does this relate to two lost firefighters?
Mean people... BAD people... "takers"... EBT cheats/welfare fraudsters... Bernie Madoff-style corporatists and thieves... it's a shitty world in a lot of ways. This contributes to the "Fuck you I'm getting mine" mentality that in micro relief is some asshat cutting into traffic while everyone else has waited in line.
The only way to win is to not become that. Fight it if you want, and win when you can, but don't think for a minute that they're going away. Just say "God bless" and let them on their empty way.
In moments of tragedy this city softens just a bit. People think about the fact that two brave guys ran into a burning building when ordinary folks ran from it. And then they never went home, and people are confronted with their mortality a bit, and they think "Geez, those poe-ah bass-tahds..." and they are distracted from their self-centeredness ever so briefly.
It's not a weakness to care about other people.
So I want to remember "Eddie" and "Mikey," two guys who put EVERYONE else ahead of themselves. My grandfather and an uncle were firefighters and I never had the guts to do something as noble as they did or anyone who ever donned that gear has done. We're lucky to have people who care so much about other people. That's Boston Strong, or Watertown Strong, or Strong wherever they are. We can't all fight fires, but we can all work on showing the kind of human compassion and caring these guys gave their lives for.