By Ron Ayotte, Contributing Writer
On Dec. 9, Worcester firefighter Christopher Roy, a resident of Shrewsbury, was killed in the line of duty while battling a fire in a multifamily structure that eventually went to five alarms. At one point, the fire trapped a group of firefighters fighting the blaze from the inside.
As soon as the news of the trapped firefighters hit social media, firefighters from all over the state, the country and even from other parts of the world started offering hopes and prayers that they would be found safe. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
Firefighters are looked at as heroes or they are looked at as “expendable,” depending on the economic climate or until something tragic happens. Firefighters are used to this “emotional yo-yo” as it is part of what they refer as “the Job.”
Most people do not understand the “firefighter mindset,” so I will try to explain it. Firefighters have two families – the one they live with and the one they work with. Both are completely intertwined. What happens to one of them happens to all of them. Even when one has retired from their fire service career, as I have, we still feel the joys and sorrows of our brothers and sisters. It is especially poignant for retirees with sons, daughters and other family members still on the job.
Firefighters lined the streets and highway overpasses as Roy’s body was taken to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Boston and again when his body was returned to Worcester. His family and brothers and sisters stood in front of his firehouse as the hearse carrying him drove by.
The death of Christopher Roy affects each and every firefighter, active or retired, career or paid on call and volunteer, not only in our local area, but all over the country.
“Despite all the training we do and all the fires we go to, each fire is different and can be deadly,” said Shrewsbury firefighter Paul Pavone. “That could have been me or happened to someone in my Department.”
Marlborough Firefighter/EMT Jon Ayotte said “This hits too close to home as it does for many of us. As a single parent with a 6-year-old son, my heart hurts for that little girl.”
Northborough Firefighter/Paramedic Pat McManus wrote in a Facebook post: “See this guy? I see him, don’t recognize him, never met him, sadly I never will, but I know him. I worked with him for 17 years. He is us. I know he’s made of different stuff than most, that he shows up, and does the job, and takes care of his family and doesn’t ask for much, just the simple things; friends who will die for him, friends worth dying for, people who show up, do their damndest and don’t make excuses. I know he had no intentions of dying this morning, but that he knew he might. Worcester Firefighter Christopher Roy didn’t make it out. What matters most is that he went in. Firefighters worth a damn go in… It’s how we live, and tragically, sometimes how we die. Rest in Peace. Sir, until we meet again.”
Thousands of firefighters will don their Class A dress blue uniforms, white gloves and line the streets once again to honor a brother who many never knew, who they never recognized, but worked with them in the spirit of brotherhood… and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what firefighters are. They don’t consider themselves “heroes”… but those who make the supreme sacrifice are.