WORCESTER, Mass. — Tuesday will mark a somber anniversary in Worcester. It will be the 20th anniversary of the cold storage fire that claimed the lives of six firefighters. Saturday morning, a tribute exhibit featuring each of the brave men lost opened to the public.
Towering flames and the thick smoke of December 3, 1999 are memories retired Lt. Donald Courtney will never shake.
"Anything can trigger it, the number six can trigger it," said Courtney, a retired lieutenant of Worcester Fire. "Especially starting around Thanksgiving time."
On that horrible December day, Paul Brotherton, Timothy Jackson, Jeremiah Lucey, James Lyons III, Joseph McGuirk, and Lt. Thomas Spencer made the perilous walk into that building and died trying to rescue others.
As firefighters mourned, people of Worcester sent mounds of letters, quilts and crafts to pick up the distraught men and women of the fire department. Items now serving as the foundation of a tribute honoring the Worcester 6.
Among display with those items are tools scorched and some split apart by the intense flames. Even a fence that stood with makeshift memorial items left in 1999 was preserved to share their story.
27-year-old Earl Duncan vividly remembers when his family brought him to the fire site as a boy.
"When everything happened, I remember going down with my parents to deliver flowers to the site," he said.
Duncan's cousin is a firefighter.
"I worry about them when they go out and they have a call," he said. "It's unbelievable work that they do."
Remarkable bravery. Sadly, Worcester has lost nine firefighters in two decades.
The patches, pictures and all of the other items there for the Worcester tribute will be at Union Station eventually. Organizers say they're going to be moved to a museum.
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