As we drove from South Hadley to Watertown, there was no banter at the 5:00 am hour. We had awoken early to pay tribute to Lt. Edward Walsh, who along with Firefighter Michael Kennedy had lost their lives on March 26, 2014. As the ride went on, we began to discuss that fateful day. Several of us had listened to the events on the radio and we knew by the sound of the transmissions, that things were not good. It went bad, really FAST. Ultimately, we learned that two brothers had lost their lives, and several others were injured trying to save them.
There is no way to prepare someone who has not been to a LODD (Line of Duty Death) funeral. For some, this trip this would be their first. You try to prepare them, explain what will happen, and what to expect, and there is never enough words to describe it all. Make no mistake about it; the words don't describe what we witnessed on April 2, 2014.
We arrived early in Watertown and we could see from the start that this would be something that few people have ever witnessed. The bagpipers and drum corps were assembling in the lot next to us. They came from all over; Boston, Maine, Chicago, New York and Toronto just to name a few. They all were preparing to give this hero his final farewell.
As we lined Main Street, I started to realize that this would be quite a tribute. Firefighters from all over the country were beginning to assemble. It seemed endless. From CAL/FIRE to Orlando, Florida to the Canadian Provinces and so forth, they just kept getting in formation. Brother and sister firefighters and police officers standing as one to honor a hero.
As the procession began, I could see four buses, each of them containing a large contingent of Lt Walsh’s family and friends. I am not really sure what part hit me more, but the face of Lt. Walsh’s little nephew who was waving to us as we held our salute, reminded me of young Billy McCaffery, from the movie Backdraft. He just stood there with his father’s helmet. Just the young innocent look that the child gave, with all that was happening around him brought a tear to my eye.
After the mass, as the procession once again took this hero from the church to his final resting place, we stood as one to salute our fallen brother. When it was over, the sea of firefighters walking the streets back to their busses and vehicles was a true tribute to our profession. Though I am not related in blood, I am proud to call Lt. Edward Walsh my brother. God Bless you and your family.
Photos by Captain Bob Labrie, Goshen MA
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Chief Bob Authier graduated Holyoke Community College majoring in Criminal Justice in 1989. He started his career as a firefighter with Holyoke Fire Department in 1991. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 2001, Captain in 2003, achieved Deputy Chief in 2005 and earned EMT in 2008. Chief Authier became Chief Fire District No.1 for South Hadley Fire Department in 2011 and became the accredited Fire Chief in 2013 where performs his duties today.