Arrow Paper Fire & Memorial
I’d like to welcome the families of Joe Reilly and Bob Brickley. I am very glad that you could be with us today as we remember them and once more recognize them for their gift of service.
Welcome also to Congressman Mike Capuano, Mayor Dot Kelly Gay, Members of the Board of Aldermen, elected officials and members of the business community that have joined us today at this dedication.
I extend a Special Welcome to all my brother and sister firefighters and fire chiefs both active and retired from our department and the other departments that have taken time out of this beautiful day to gather with us as we pay tribute and remember these men that have given the ultimate sacrifice.
With these welcomes I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the Arrow Paper memorial committee – Captain Dennis Murphy, Union President Steve Finn, and the members of the department that worked with them, members of the business community and city government that made this memorial a reality.
Twenty five years ago Engine Two responded to an alarm, just like they had many times before and have many times since. However, on June 10,1974, two firefighters did not return with their company, Joe Rielly and Bob Brickley. These two men were representative of the entire department – one a seasoned veteran firefighter and the other a rookie with only 4 months. These two men as we all know could have been any one of us.
I remember this fatal event. I was not yet on the department, so I did not know either of these men personally. My father a retired fire Captain had worked with Joe Rielly – he spoke highly of him. What I do know however from listening to stories and conversations in the firehouse kitchen from men who did know and work with Bob and Joe is that these men were firefighters -- they did their job.
They reported to work shift after shift to protect the people and property of Somerville. They did their job. They didn’t see their job as glamorous or heroic they just -- did their job. In the end their job took their lives.
I believe that both of these men would be proud of today. They would be proud not because they wanted to be heroes and be memorialized, but because of the job that they did, they knew the job of a firefighter is more than just fighting fires – they knew the job of a fire fighter is also that of brotherhood, sisterhood, and tradition.
It is the brotherhood, sisterhood, and tradition of the fire service that we see demonstrated in this ceremony and in this beautiful memorial.
So much has changed in the fire service and the community in the 25 years since the Arrow Paper fire.
Look around here everyone. Yes, take a moment – turn your heads – look around -- take in what you see today.
25 years ago you did not see these new buildings, streets and sidewalks, or even grass, but rather you saw barely passable dirt and cobblestone streets, old dilapidated buildings and many piles of burnt debris and more piles waiting to burn. 25 years ago the City of Somerville was known as a poor community ridiculed with many a slang ‘nickname’ from other communities. Today you see a thriving city – an All American City.
Look at the Somerville Fire Department – the diversity of it’s members. Firefighters of both genders.
These are the changes of the years – these are the promises of a better tomorrow. With all these changes however it is the past, the tradition that is the fabric of the fire department.
It is this tradition that rides with us to every alarm. It is the tradition of the past that makes us proud and strong to face the future of tomorrow.
The fire service tradition is known for it’s spirit of caring, kindness and aid.
This spirit is strongest when it is described as the brotherhood and sisterhood of the fire fighters themselves.
25 years after this tragic fire that took the lives of our brothers Joe and Bob – it is the brotherhood and sisterhood that built this memorial and arranged this ceremony.
It is important as the world around us changes – as the dangers in each fire become more silent and hidden in chemicals – as city budget constraints challenge sound public safety decisions – it is important that we realize that this brotherhood and sisterhood will be what holds us all together. It is this brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighters that will carry our department and the fire service into the next century.
Memorials like this are important for the families and friends of our fallen members to let them know we recognize the sacrifice of their loved ones and that we will never forget.
But memorials like this are just as important for the men and women of the department today – each of us must know that our efforts in our jobs will not be forgotten.
The brotherhood and sisterhood will always have us remember.
Maybe this is because it is only another firefighter that understands the bond between two humans that comes from being there when the smoke is so thick you can’t see each other’s face, but you know their presence.
Or maybe it is the look that is exchanged between two firefighters when they arrive at the scene of a horrific accident and realize the victims are but children, much like their own. The bond is strong for all these and many more reasons.
Today the brotherhood and sisterhood is public.
We stand here proud of the men that gave their lives at the Arrow Paper fire and we stand here proud to be firefighters, doing our jobs – just like Joe Rielly and Bob Brickley.
We are proud to be firefighters.
We are proud to do our jobs – changing and challenging as they are each day.
We are proud of our brotherhood and sisterhood and proud of the tradition that we display at this fine memorial for all to see and remember.
(Pictured Top:) Somerville Fire Department Honor guard. (Pictured Middle:) Boston Fire Department Bagpipe Band. (Pictured Bottom:) Color Guards and members of the Somerville Fire and Surrounding Communities. The Above Photos by: Lt. Girard Gover
Special thanks to Capt. Patrick Sullivan III for constructing this page.
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