As a pink sunrise spread over the canal on the morning of Wednesday, April 2, three chartered buses carrying 120 Cape firefighters pulled into the Sagamore bus lot. The firefighters were destined for Boston to pay their respects to the families of two of their own, Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, who died during a nine-alarm fire in Boston’s Back Bay on March 26.
“We work together as a team when we’re at work and when something like this happens,” Falmouth Firefighter Scott Starbard said while waiting outside for the bus, describing the bond between his colleagues as a “brotherhood” and “camaraderie.”As he spoke, his fellow firefighters gathered around him.
Mr. Starbard, who now lives in Falmouth with his wife and three children, grew up in Watertown and graduated from Watertown High School with Lt. Walsh in 1989. Although the two were not close friends, he said, “it hits close to home.”
Even in the wake of tragedy, however, Mr. Starbard said that the risk involved in their profession is not a subject that is typically discussed among his colleagues and their families.
“You think about going in and doing your job,” he said matter-of-factly. “The type of people who do this kind of job, that’s just what they do.”
Of the firefighters on the three buses, about a dozen from Falmouth, 15 from Mashpee, 10 to 15 from Bourne and six from Sandwich were on their way to join the thousands of firefighters from across the country expected to attend Lt. Walsh’s funeral at 10:30 AM at St. Patrick’s Church in Roxbury and Mr. Kennedy’s wake, from 4 to 8 PM at P.E. Murray Funeral Home in West Roxbury.
When asked what his first thoughts were upon hearing the news, Mashpee Fire Department Captain Kevin Long shook his head and sighed, as if lost for words.
“Just shock,” he said, adding that the chance of death is one that all firefighters are aware of in their profession. “When you get in your house [firehouse], you just hope that you have the knowledge and experience to get out and get home to your family.”
For Capt. Long, one of the most tragic facts of the two Boston firefighters’ deaths was that they were attempting to exit the building when they died.
“It’s terrifying,” he said. “That’s the risk you take [as a firefighter].”
Additional groups of Cape firefighters attended Lt. Walsh’s wake on April 1 and are scheduled to attend Mr. Kennedy’s funeral on April 3.