The city of Worcester, Massachusetts, paid tribute Tuesday to six firefighters who died battling a blaze in a vacant warehouse 20 years ago.
Countless firefighters, a color guard and a 21-gun salute were part of the solemn ceremony marking two decades after the Worcester Cold Storage fire. Participants marched to the Franklin Street fire station Tuesday evening.
A memorial ceremony began around 6 p.m. Mayor Joseph Petty, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Fire Chief Michael Lavoie, City Manager Edward Augustus Jr., and actor Denis Leary, a Worcester native, were on hand.
It was Dec. 3, 1999 when a fire broke out at the abandoned warehouse. Lt. Thomas Spencer, Lt. James Lyons, Lt. Timothy Jackson, Paul Brotherton, Jeremiah Lucey and Joseph McGuirk lost their lives looking for homeless people believed to be inside.
"It was 20 years ago tonight the heart of our city, and the hearts of so many of you here, were broken," Petty said Tuesday.
"Even though we can't see or touch our six brothers, we feel them in our hearts, in our minds, as they continue to guide us through some of the most difficult times that one department and city can bear," said Lavoie.
"We will never forget the sacrifices these six firefighters made in the line of duty in an effort to save others," Augustus said. "It truly takes a special kind of person to be a Worcester firefighter — someone who runs into a burning building or a house on fire with people still inside."
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Lucey was Leary's cousin, and Spencer was a childhood friend. The actor and comedian formed the Leary Firefighters Foundation in the aftermath of the 1999 fire.
"We have never forgotten these brave men and the ultimate sacrifice they made 20 years ago tonight," Leary said. "We honor their devotion to duty, and the seven sons who have followed in their fathers' footsteps to serve this community as Worcester firefighters. That is the greatest tribute of all."