By Kyle Alspach
ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER
Posted May 11, 2008 @ 06:00 AM
Last update May 11, 2008 @ 07:28 AM
After more than 67 years, the deadliest fire in the city’s history finally has a fitting memorial.
Many hundreds crowded into City Hall Plaza Saturday morning to see the dedication of the Strand Theatre Firefighters Memorial statue, a bronze-and-granite tribute to the 13 firefighters who lost their lives as a result of the theater blaze on March 10, 1941.
The memorial, which stands more than 10 feet tall and shows a firefighter kneeling with his head down, sits in the plaza about 100 feet from where the Strand Theatre once stood.
It was announced during Saturday’s event that the statue depicts Edward Burrell, a retired Brockton fire chief and the only living member of the force that responded to the fire.
“It’s a great monument for those 13 firefighters. It was a long time coming,” said Burrell, 93, after the dedication. “I never thought I’d be here to see it.”
The crowd endured chill winds throughout the nearly two-hour event, and broke into cheering as the statue was unveiled.
Twelve firefighters were killed when the theater’s ceiling collapsed suddenly, and a 13th later died from his injuries.
It remains one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history.
“This tragedy forever defined the history of the Brockton fire department,” Brockton Fire Chief Kenneth Galligan said in remarks during the event.
The new memorial, he said, “will forever remind all of those who visit this memorial site of the dedication, sacrifice and commitment of all firefighters.”
Mayor James Harrington described the fallen firefighters as “brave heroes” who will never be forgotten. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray called the ceremony a bittersweet moment.
“Even the stretch of 67 years can’t fully erase the pain Brockton felt on the morning of March 10, 1941,” Murray said.
Officials said they believe the timing of the fire — just a few months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of U.S. involvement in World War II — may have been one of the reasons a memorial was not erected sooner.
In August 1941, a memorial with the names of the deceased engraved in coal was given to the city by the Fire Department of Scranton, Pa., and for decades it had been the only memorial the city had to the fire victims. It is located inside City Hall.
Brockton Fire Lt. Richard Baker, who helped spearhead the effort to build the new memorial, said it took seven years of fundraising and planning.
“I can finally, finally, finally say that we did it,” Baker said, to cheers from the crowd.
Kyle Alspach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MARC VASCONCELLOS/ THE ENTERPRISE
Retired Brockton Fire Chief Edward Burrell, 93, Brockton, is reflected into the Strand Theatre monument after it was unveilled at City Hall Plaza. Thirteen Brockton Firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty on March 10, 1941. Burrell was a firefighter the day of the Strand Theatre fire, and the monument was designed to look like him when he was a young firefighter.
Click Here For Dedication Video Clip