NEWS NEWS AND MORE NEWS I am going to get all of my memories down, before I forget what I remember!. . . . quote from Stanley Forman

21Apr/133

Marathon Memories

My Press Pass, 2013

Going to the Boston Marathon is like going to Dis­ney. Every­one is smil­ing and laugh­ing except maybe the run­ners till they cool down. I am not going to let the sad events sur­round­ing the 117th run­ning of the Boston Marathon take away from the won­der­ful mem­o­ries I have of cov­er­ing it since 1967.

At the Boston Record Amer­i­can it was huge. There were a lot of pho­tog­ra­phers assigned. In 1967 women were not allowed to run, nor was there a wheelchair-sanctioned race. The crowds and amount of run­ners paled to what it has become today.

We cov­ered the begin­ning, the Welles­ley Col­lege coeds at their water tables, Heart­break Hill in New­ton, the fin­ish line and the med­ical tent.  One pho­tog­ra­pher was assigned to the photographer’s truck, which was usu­ally a beat up flat bed truck. At least once the pho­tog­ra­phers had to get off the truck and push it out of the way. Many run­ners com­plained about the fumes from the truck. I never got that assignment.

Back then the Pru­den­tial Insur­ance was the spon­sor so the race ended on the strip in front of the Pru­den­tial Tower. As the race would come down Com­mon­wealth Avenue the run­ners would take the right on Glouces­ter Street and the truck would go straight down Com­mon­wealth Avenue.  At the fin­ish line there were sev­eral pho­tog­ra­phers. A Boston motor­cy­cle cop, Gene Lee, a great ath­lete him­self would be assigned to grab our film of the fin­ish and race it to our office in down­town Boston. Page One would be a photo of the win­ner. I worked the lab for my first Marathon.

The wire ser­vices set up a dark­room in a school right near the start of the race, which always began at noon. They would have a photo on the wires within ten min­utes for the after­noon papers.  I worked the lab for my first race. Kather­ine Switzer a col­lege stu­dent reg­is­tered for the race as K.V. Switzer and got a num­ber. When Jock Sem­ple a BAA race offi­cial saw K.V. was a woman he jumped into the start of the race and tried to wres­tle her out. Ms. Switzer had put her hair up to dis­guise her­self. Other run­ners blocked Sem­ple from throw­ing her out. Don Robin­son of UPI was the only pho­tog­ra­pher to get the shots. That caused quite a bit of grief for our pho­tog­ra­pher who was on the truck. Back then we did it our­selves. It was not a good thing to see a credit, which read AP or UPI photo. It would be five more years before woman were sanc­tioned.       

My first out­side cov­er­age was in 1968. I was assigned to the start­ing line. I was given a Polaroid Cam­era, a steplad­der, one of the wire ser­vices portable trans­mit­ters and instructed to find some­one who would let me use their home phone to trans­mit the start of the race. I would only have one chance to get the photo, as Polaroid’s were not fast. I did get it and it was Page One.

Late 60s, me help­ing one of the run­ners get set for a self por­trait. Note, I was
taller, thin­ner and had hair.

I also had to get some fea­ture pho­tos of run­ners and bring back some sto­ries to go with the pho­tos. It was a lot of fun. I helped peo­ple tak­ing pho­tos of each other some­times grab­bing their cam­eras to take the pho­tos so both the shooter and sub­ject could be together. One year I met this cou­ple, both UMass Amherst stu­dents who were going to run the race together. They told me they were insep­a­ra­ble. Within a year of the race they would be killed in a car crash. Although they were not mar­ried they were buried together. Because of my pho­tos we cov­ered the story.

Rac­ing down to the wire, slip­pery day in front of the Pru­den­tial Tower.

I cov­ered the fin­ish many times. There was no yel­low tape and I could roam wher­ever I wanted. I was at the fin­ish line when the first wheel­chair race was sanc­tioned. I had a shot of two run­ners rac­ing for the 3rd & 4th posi­tion with one of them falling before he crossed the line.

Patty Lyons Cata­lano with her sis­ters after the finish.

Patty Lyons Cata­lano, a local favorite who every­one thought would win the Boston Marathon in 1981 was beaten by Ali­son Roe. It was unex­pected. I was at the fin­ish line when Patty was greeted by her sis­ters and the dis­ap­point­ment of not win­ning the race.

In 1982 I went into TV. The Boston Marathon was a huge event back then. We arrived in Hop­kin­ton around 6:am the Sun­day before the Mon­day race with thou­sands of feet of cable. It was at least a 12-hour day with many cam­eras being set up. We would be live through the early morn­ing show on Mon­day, then the start and through­out the race. The only time I got in front of the run­ners is when I rode shot­gun while John Premack ran the cam­era for live cov­er­age of the race from a small pickup truck.

There were some funny times. Bill Rodgers a local race favorite would win the race four times. I went to his Mel­rose home one race morn­ing then fol­lowed him to Hop­kin­ton. There was a crew from Japan doing the same thing. We were dri­ving west on the Mass Pike when the Japan­ese crew decided to pull up along side the Rodgers’ car to get shots, only prob­lem Rodger’s car got off the ramp at Route 495 and they ended up going fur­ther west miss­ing the exit. It was a very funny moment.

Johnny Kelly the elder who won the race twice and fin­ished sec­ond seven times ran his 61st and last race in 1992. I was almost home when the phone rang. Joe Roche on the assign­ment desk for Chan­nel Five real­ized at 630:pm we had no one at the fin­ish line for Johnny Kelly. I raced back and got Johnny fin­ish­ing the race and col­laps­ing into his wife’s arms.

Women and wheel­chairs all became part of the Boston Marathon. Photo from my still days.

After many years of cov­er­age I got some senior­ity and took the April school vaca­tion week off to spend time with my fam­ily. It meant not cov­er­ing the race but being able to watch it. We went to New­ton, at the begin­ning of Heart Break Hill where a very fes­tive group was watching.

Wheel­chair win­ner, late 70s.

Forty six years after my first Marathon, April 15, 2013 it all changed. I was sit­ting at the South Bay Mall at 2:50pm when I heard a Boston Police Offi­cer scream­ing for mul­ti­ple ambu­lances to Boyl­ston Street he had 40–50 peo­ple injured.

At first I thought he said 71 Boyl­ston Street which is down by the Boston Com­mon. I fig­ured a mov­ing vehi­cle hit the peo­ple. Then it changed to 671 Boyl­ston Street and I knew it was some­thing to do with the Marathon, but I still thought a vehi­cle had struck the people.

Then it hap­pened, some­one said on one of the chan­nels I was lis­ten­ing to it was an explo­sion, a bomb went off. I was yelling into the two-way radio to the sta­tion and try­ing to get around traf­fic through the South End of Boston to the explo­sion area. I got lucky and got behind some fire com­mand cars and police cruis­ers. I shut the radios off, as I only wanted to con­cen­trate on get­ting there safely. I knew we had crews at the med­ical tent. I fig­ured we would be all set where the explo­sion took place.

I tried to park where I could see the top of the Pru­den­tial Tower where one of our receive sites for microwave was anchored. I knew I might have to feed tape or go live with my vehi­cle. When I finally parked on the island in the mid­dle of Hunt­ing­ton Avenue I was very excited. I opened the trunk area to get my equip­ment out, had to change mic bat­ter­ies as I for­got to shut it off the last time I used it and con­tin­ued to shake. I knew my daugh­ter Han­nah was in Boston, but I also knew she should not be in this area.

Then my cell phone rang, it was Han­nah and I lost it. I screamed at her “get the fuck out of the City,” and I said it sev­eral times. I was so happy to hear her voice.

I got my shit together and started to shoot video. Many were cry­ing, scared and won­der­ing what to do as the police were urg­ing them to keep mov­ing and get out of the area. I talked to some eye­wit­nesses, got video of lots of peo­ple hug­ging and cry­ing. I got a shot of one injured runner.

I was never able to get into the explo­sion area. The police shut it down very quickly. I stayed on Hunt­ing­ton Avenue till 8:pm. I heard a call the police were going to a high-rise apart­ment build­ing two streets form Revere Beach. There were sev­eral police depart­ments there includ­ing, FBI, ATF, MSP, Home­land Secu­rity. They were there because at the Brigham & Woman’s Hos­pi­tal there was an injured man who became a per­son of inter­est. He lives in this build­ing. Finally after 11:pm the inves­ti­ga­tors left and I got to go home.  At 2:30am the phone rang and I was asked to go back to Revere. There were some Tweets the inves­ti­ga­tion was con­tin­u­ing. I drove back, looked around, noth­ing and went home. I got another hour of sleep and went back to work.

Part of the makeshift memo­r­ial in Cop­ley Square. This is where the med­ical tent was for the race. Most of the injured were treated within 100 feet of the memorial.

Two days after the blast, on Wednes­day,  Jack Harper and I inter­viewed one of the “heroes” of the blast Tracy Munroe. She tear­fully told us how she and her fam­ily left the area right after the blast. Then she knew she had to go back to help and ran back. She saw the Richards’ fam­ily. Mar­tin Richards an eight year old was dead at the scene. She picked up his six year old sis­ter, Jane and held her in her arms. She asked her name, said com­fort­ing words and held her until med­ical peo­ple came to help her.  Jane lost one of her legs and her mother has a severe brain injury from the blast.

As Jack and I lis­tened we both became teary eyed. After the inter­view I told her she reminded me of the teacher from New­town, Kaitlin Roid who told her stu­dents as she hid them and lis­tened to the gun­shots, “I need you to know that I love you all very much, I thought that was the last thing they were ever going to hear. I thought we were all going to die.”  She said she did not want the last sounds they heard to be gunfire.

Thurs­day after the explo­sion was calm until after ten that night. I received a call say­ing a police offi­cer had been shot near MIT. I called it in and tried to go back to sleep. Just after 1:am, Nancy Bent on the desk called to get me going yelling cops are being shot at, bombs are being thrown and one of the sus­pects was dead.

I raced to Water­town where I would spend the next 16 hours. There were thou­sands of cops rac­ing around from one lead to the next. The area was pretty much shut down and with all the vehi­cles rac­ing around I decided to pull over so I would not get hit by one of them.

Around 4:pm my eyes were start­ing to close and I went home. My wife Deb­bie woke me up when the announce­ment came the sec­ond sus­pect was trapped in a boat in someone’s back­yard. We watched until the press con­fer­ence and the offi­cial announce­ment he had been cap­tured and trans­ferred to the hospital.

Med­ford City Hall is draped with a 45/90 foot flag as the City pays their respects to Marathon Blast vic­tim Krystie Camp­bell, whose funeral was held on April, 22, 2013.

As a pro­fes­sional newsper­son I am dis­ap­pointed I did not get any com­pelling video but happy to have been a part of the cov­er­age. I sat out New­town and the Bliz­zard of 2013, due to an injury. I am glad I got to cover this awful event.

Memento from the April 24, 2013, very mov­ing memo­r­ial at MIT for their police offi­cer Sean Collier.

I am proud to say I work for the best local tele­vi­sion sta­tion in the Coun­try, WCVB-TV. We have a great team who worked many days and long hours together dur­ing this tragic event. We shared our grief and anx­i­ety. Only WBZ-TV con­tin­ues to cover the Boston Marathon locally. Sev­eral years ago it was decided not to cover the race live. From a busi­ness stand point it did not work any­more. It will be inter­est­ing to see what the sta­tions and net­works do next year.

Here is a link to com­pelling audio of the first 20 min­utes after the explo­sion. The com­mand­ing office Yan­kee C2 is Dan Lin­sky of the Boston Police Depart­ment. Notice how calm and orga­nized he is.

http://www.lawofficer.com/video/news/police-audio-boston-marathon-e

Here is the link to Diane Sawyer’s inter­view with Kaitlin Roig a cou­ple of months after New­town.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/newtown-teacher-mission/story?id=18864583#.UXXQXL-IIip

 

 

 

 

22Nov/122

Logan Airport and Me

Logan Air­port, 1977

Since the tragic yet fas­ci­nat­ing story on the news Novem­ber 21, 2010 about Delvonte Tins­dale a 16 year old who is believed to have stowed away in the wheel well of a plane from Char­lotte, North Car­olina and falling to his death over the down of Mil­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts I have been think­ing about my expe­ri­ences at Logan Airport.

As a kid grow­ing up in Revere, the planes were on a land­ing path over our house. Some­times we thought the plane was com­ing for din­ner.  There was also a small air­port in Revere we vis­ited as a fam­ily to watch the planes land­ing and tak­ing off.

Once in a while when my friends had noth­ing to do we would get on the train and go to Logan to watch the big planes com­ing and going. In those days you could watch peo­ple get­ting on and off the planes on the tar­mac from a roof top bal­cony.  I was there with my good friend Peter Tegan many years ago when Eliz­a­beth Tay­lor landed.  It was just after she left Eddie Fisher for Richard Bur­ton while film­ing “Cleopa­tra.”  To say the least, most of the peo­ple watch­ing were not com­pli­men­tary to her when she walked the tar­mac although I doubt she could hear what was being shouted from where we were.

The first plane crash at Logan I remem­ber had to be in the early 60s.  The plane went off the run­way into Winthrop Har­bor; that stretch of water between Logan and Winthrop. Gene Dixon, one of the great pho­tog­ra­phers I worked with, told the story of hear­ing the first call and fol­low­ing a Boston Police Cruiser through the Sum­mer Tun­nel (there was only one tun­nel in those days and it was two-way com­ing and going from Boston to East Boston). The cruiser was not sure the best access and went up and down the inlet streets of Winthrop and ended up on Dix Street where for­mer Gov­er­nor Edward King lived.  It was a good access point from that side of the tragedy and Gene took what­ever pho­tos he could make from that dis­tance. In high school after the crash one of my teach­ers, Mr. Mil­l­er­ick, talked about the crash and com­plained how many rubber-neckers there were try­ing to get a glimpse of the inci­dent. Truth be known even back then had I been able to get there I would have been there.

When the Boston Fire Depart­ment struck fire box 612 you knew it could be some­thing as that was the fire box num­ber for crashes at Logan. There was a crash in the late ‘70s when an air­plane com­ing in for a land­ing in the fog hit the retain­ing wall on Run­way 33 Left, break­ing apart on impact and burst­ing into flames. The day that hap­pened I was doing an inter­view in New­ton at the home of a widow whose hus­band had been shot through one of their win­dows as he watched TV.  I was with Ed Corsetti (best crime reporter of his era) and we had no idea about the crash.  We left the inter­view and turned on the AM radio to hear about it.  It hap­pened just before noon.

Gene Dixon once again was on the inci­dent and he told the story of being on the Boston Com­mons with other pho­tog­ra­phers and hear­ing the Boston Globe desk call­ing their pho­tog­ra­pher on their two-way radio telling him about the crash.  Gene left imme­di­ately raced to Logan, got through the gate and took a cou­ple of quick pho­tos and left so he could make our evening paper’s noon­ish dead­line.  As he told it, he raced to the scene, took a few pho­tos and raced back to the paper. As he was dri­ving through the Dewey Square Tun­nel (now the Lib­erty Tun­nel) the trans­mis­sion on his car gave out.  He jumped out of his car and hoofed it the rest of the way, prob­a­bly about a mile, but he got in on time to grab Page One of the paper.  He got a hun­dred dol­lar bonus and it cost him about a thou­sand dol­lars for the repair. The money really did not mat­ter as it gave him some­thing to joke about on such an awful story.

There was one sur­vivor; a sol­dier by the name of Leopold Chi­nard from the Portsmouth, New Hamp­shire area.  He died sev­eral months later as he was burned over most of his body.  Kevin Cole was also at the scene and had some great images of a ter­ri­ble crash. I got stuck tak­ing pho­tos of fam­i­lies lin­ing up out­side the South End Morgue to view the bod­ies for identification.

The night the infa­mous World Air­lines Plane skid­ded off the run­away after an ice storm Gene Dixon was once again the first one there, raced out on the run­way and got a great Page One photo.  I was home in Roslin­dale tak­ing a nap about 6:30 PM with the radios blar­ing in the back­ground and I must have been count­ing the box as I remem­ber lying there and say­ing to myself 612 and jumped out of bed and started head­ing for Logan.   It was very slip­pery going and when I came down the ramp to the Tun­nel I skid­ded over a lane or two before I made my entrance. By the time I got there I only went to the gate the plane was assigned to. I pho­tographed the pas­sen­gers as they came back to the gate via a bus.

There are two inci­dents that I was per­son­ally involved in and one of them was a Sat­ur­day in the late ‘70s. It was about 11am and I had just walked out of the photo depart­ment office to go to the news­room when Tom Sul­li­van, the City Edi­tor came run­ning down yelling “every­one out, every­one out there is a plane crash at Logan!”  I took off run­ning down the stairs and rac­ing to the scene. I was really mov­ing and almost missed the ramp to the Xway North to take me to the Tun­nel and Logan. In those days all there was block­ing us from the run­ways at the South Gate was a sign and a guard. My friend from Chan­nel Seven, Richie Suskin, and I arrived at the same time after rac­ing to the scene.  We whizzed past him so fast we must have made his head spin.

FYI, if you did that now a days you would hit a bar­ri­cade and if you made it through that some­one would prob­a­bly shoot you. 

We raced out to where a cargo plane was burn­ing, try­ing to keep up with the fire appa­ra­tus rac­ing to the scene.  No one was both­er­ing us, as every­one was too busy try­ing to save lives. When we got there, I watched Richie go to one side of the crash, being pur­sued by a State Trooper who was at the scene.  I took many pho­tos as the access was great, then got back in my car and fol­lowed an ambu­lance out since I knew they were in con­tact with the tower mak­ing it safe to cross the run­ways.  All the other pho­tog­ra­phers were even­tu­ally brought out there by a Mass Port bus.

There is one more run­way expe­ri­ence I remem­ber very well. It was a week­day and box 612 was struck. All the media raced to the south gate to wait for the Mass Port bus. The bus would take us out to where there was a plane on the end of the run­way. A plane had an engine fire and had aborted take off.

I knew my good friend Billy Noo­nan, a Boston Fire­fighter, was work­ing and since he was the pho­tog­ra­pher with the arson squad he would be going to the scene. I said to a cou­ple of the pho­tog­ra­phers, “In a few min­utes there will be a lit­tle red car with its red lights on com­ing to this gate and I will be get­ting in it.” They just laughed at me.  Next thing they saw was me with my thumb out and the car stop­ping and tak­ing me to the scene.  I got a really good photo show­ing the Mass Port lad­der up, the plane with the escape slides deployed and the city of Boston in the back­ground.  It was a great photo of the incident.

A while later the bus with the rest of the pho­tog­ra­phers showed up.  Every­one started tak­ing pho­tos but by then the lad­der had been taken down and it was just a plane on the run­way. Dick Hur­witz the AP Chief Pho­tog­ra­pher saw me and thought I had come on the sec­ond bus and was glee­ful to tell me how happy he was to have got­ten there before me.  I laughed and said to him “take a look at tomorrow’s paper and remem­ber what you just said.” I kicked butt with my photo.

FYI, recently the fam­ily of Delvonte Tins­dale filed suit against Char­lotte, Charlotte-Douglas Inter­na­tional Air­port and US Airways. 

 

26Aug/122

Roland Oxton, The Man Who Was The King!!!

Fir­ing Squad! Cap­ture of a perp in Boston’s South End, late 60s or early 70s, Roland Oxton Photo.

Rol­lie Oxton, Pulitzer Prize Win­ner, my hero, men­tor, friend and I got to work with him at the old Record Amer­i­can where I started in this busi­ness.  Rol­lie was the King of his era. He cruised the streets of Boston for parts of 3 decades, always there when it happened.

Recently I made con­tact with his son David, the head of the art depart­ment at the Gov­er­nor Dum­mer School in Byfield, MA. We have exchanged emails and now I get a chance to dis­play some of his great images and talk about my hero.

When I was a kid grow­ing up out­side of Boston (Revere) and news­pa­pers were an impor­tant sta­ple of our lives, I got to see Rollie’s pho­tos all the time. I would look at news­pa­per and day­dream about being able to stay up all night and chase police­men, fire­fight­ers and be where the action was, just like him.  Once when I was with my father rid­ing in down­town Boston I saw him cruis­ing wear­ing his trade­mark hat. I was thrilled to have got­ten a glimpse of him.

In 1966 I got to join the paper where Rol­lie worked.  He was a God in the indus­try. If Danny Shee­han of the Globe was Cap­tain Mid­night, Rol­lie was King Mid­night. Globe peo­ple might dis­agree with me but I think Rol­lie almost always had the best pic­tures. They were great work friends and great com­peti­tors. Every­one knew and liked him. He knew them all, police, fire­fight­ers, pimps, pros­ti­tutes and a lot of the street peo­ple.  Some­times when I got to work his overnight shift dri­ving around in the marked com­pany car peo­ple would yell out “where is Rollie?”

Most of the other news pho­tog­ra­phers were in awe of him and every­one had a Rol­lie story about his great­ness. Ollie Noo­nan, Jr., another great Boston pho­tog­ra­pher who died in Viet­nam in a heli­copter crash while work­ing for AP had a great Rol­lie story. Ollie was work­ing the overnight shift for the Globe and responded to a build­ing fire on Com­mon­wealth Ave., in the Back Bay. There was fire show­ing and a woman was on a bal­cony wait­ing to be res­cued.  He looked around and no Rol­lie.  Wow, he thought he was finally going to beat the Mas­ter. Then the fire depart­ment throws their lad­der to res­cue the woman and who is stand­ing next to him, Rol­lie. It just did not hap­pen unless Rol­lie was there.

Boston Fire­fighter Mike King yelling for help at a Boston Fire, 1970s.

When I began Rol­lie was using a Mam­i­flex 120mm film cam­era.  A machine shop had set up an adapter on the side of his cam­era, which gave he a tooth­pick like han­dle to maneu­ver. This han­dle would snap into grooves on the adapter. Each groove was rep­re­sen­ta­tive of focus feet for the lens as most of the pho­tog­ra­phers from the 4/5 era zoned focused never focus­ing through the viewfinder. It must have worked, as his images were sharp as a tack.

He took so many great news pho­tos, and he could do any­thing there was to do with the cam­era but his best stuff was break­ing news. The day after the ter­ri­ble Sherry Bilt­more Hotel fire in 1963 he had a wrap around photo on the cover of the paper show­ing mul­ti­ple lad­ders up to the build­ing and peo­ple being res­cued while oth­ers had their hands out the win­dows hop­ing to be saved.  The Sherry Bilt­more Hotel was at 150 Mass Ave approx­i­mately where the Berklee Col­lege of Music now stands.

I haunted him, beg­ging to be able to ride with him and like myself he would rather be by him­self.  I was relent­less in my request and started show­ing up on Wednes­day and Sat­ur­day nights hop­ing to ride with him.  Some­times he would let me in the car and other times he would say “not tonight.”

Brighton mur­der vic­tim on Royce Road. Roland Oxton Photo

One Sun­day morn­ing we were cruis­ing through the Back Bay near Here­ford Street with me bab­bling and Rol­lie lis­ten­ing to the radios when he yells out Royce Road, Royce Road, I think it is in Brighton but please look it up.

We were there in about 8 min­utes; Rol­lie jumps out of the car, cir­cles the para­me­ter as I am still try­ing to get a shot and says lets go. I did not think he took a good photo but next day there it is a great shot of the body in front of the police cruis­ers headlights.

In the late 50s or early 60s, Rol­lie was assigned to take some pho­tos of the home­less and street peo­ple hang­ing around the Boston Com­mon. He took a photo of a per­son sup­pos­edly drunk on a park bench with empty bot­tles of liquor around her.  Albert “Dap­per” O’Neil a local politi­cian found out the photo might have been set up and took on the Record Amer­i­can. He set up at their Winthrop Square build­ing in down­town Boston. Dap­per had a car with signs and a mega­phone stand­ing in the mid­dle of the Square shout­ing out nasty’s about the paper.

Fully involved build­ing fire, 50s or 60s. Roland Oxton Photo

I worked the photo lab for many years on Sat­ur­day morn­ing and brought him in a cof­fee every week. One Sat­ur­day I walked in around 730 and told him there was a big fire on Tremont Street, the C. Craw­ford Hol­lidge Depart­ment Store was fully involved. It was oppo­site the Boston Com­mon, he cursed as he ran out know­ing he had been by there shortly before he came to the office. He must have been at the fire ten min­utes, took a cou­ple of pho­tos, came back and owned page one.

One night after some civil unrest in the City I was assigned to ride with him so he would not be alone. We were dri­ving around the South End and some­one made a deroga­tory remark to him. Rol­lie got out of the car and had a con­ver­sa­tion with the man as I stayed in my seat think­ing we were going to get shot or some­thing. He feared nothing.

Up close and per­sonal is the way Rol­lie work­ing, as close as you could get to the fire and before yel­low tape. Roland Oxton Photo

Later in the overnight there was a fire in Rox­bury. We both went and my pho­tos sucked. I was tired and shot noth­ing of any inter­est. He took a cou­ple of his images and put my name on the cap­tion sheet so I would not look foolish.

This is from an orig­i­nal clip I have. David Oxton pieced it together via Pho­to­shop. Roland Oxton Photo.

 

The morn­ing after the Guilded Cage explo­sion Jan­u­ary of 1966, on Boyl­ston Street in Boston’s “Com­bat Zone” he came into the office at the end of his overnight shift and the edi­tor, Sam Born­stein asked him if he had any­thing good and Rol­lie replied no. He printed one photo, an over­all of the destruc­tion; another wrap around and Sam could not believe Rol­lie said he did not have any­thing very good.

Boston Fire­fighter Paul Stan­ley work­ing of a rope from Lad­der 15 res­cues a woman from the Charles River. They set up on the Mass Ave. Bridge for the res­cue, early 70s. FF Stan­ley retired this year and his last day on the job work­ing on Res­cue Two had a maas­sive fire in East Boston. Roland Oxton Photo

Rol­lie did not get excited over many of his pho­tos but the one of Paul Stan­ley res­cu­ing a woman from the Charles River really turned him on and another one where sev­eral Boston Cops cap­tured a sus­pect with their guns drawn from the oppo­site side of a fence he enjoyed.

On another occa­sion he comes back from his shift and prints a photo of a car fire on the Xway but this time he had the car explod­ing and peo­ple includ­ing fire­fight­ers run­ning from the wreck­age.  He left a short cap­tion and went home.  As soon as the edi­tors saw it they were on the phone to him ask­ing for more infor­ma­tion, he was so hum­ble about his skills.

In the late 60s there was a short-lived riot on Blue Hill Avenue in Rox­bury. It began with the tak­ing over of a cou­ple of wel­fare offices and ended with a group of angry folks run­ning down Blue Hill Ave from Grove Hall destroy­ing many mom and pop busi­ness who never recov­ered. Rol­lie was asked to start his shift early incase some­thing hap­pened and of course it did not hap­pen till he got there.

He also knew how to make nice fea­ture pho­tos and got many good sun­rise pho­tos around Cas­tle Island of morn­ing fish­er­men.  He worked Sun­days so he did many Easter Sun­rise Ser­vices. Another beau­ti­ful photo he made was a push­cart per­son mov­ing his equip­ment into place early one morn­ing. He knew how to use what­ever light there was or they wasn’t. He could do it all.

I was finally able to track down the photo of my sis­ter Louise hang­ing a stock­ing above a fire­place. My mother’s fam­ily recently had a get together, and it prompted me to search for some of the places she lived in Somerville, Cam­bridge and Brook­line area before mov­ing to Nahant. One of the loca­tions was Perry Street, which is the loca­tion where the photo of my sis­ter hang­ing the stock­ing was shot. The cou­ple who now own the house invited us inside to look around, and I viewed the liv­ing room where that photo was made. Inter­est­ingly, the fire­place man­tel, which looks like dark wood in my father’s old photo, is now restored to it’s orig­i­nal con­di­tion — and it is actu­ally con­structed of a light col­ored mar­ble. I’m guess­ing the old hol­i­day photo of my sis­ter was shot around 1948. I stud­ied the photo care­fully and real­ized that my father seems to have lit the photo with a light placed in the fire­place. I had always assumed that the strong light on my sis­ter was pro­vided by fire­light. It’s a great shot, and I can see why it became so pop­u­lar. David Oxton Description.

Rol­lie had made a pic­ture of his old­est daugh­ter Louise in front of the fire­place at Christ­mas time when she was very young. A beau­ti­fully lite photo with the Xmas stock­ing hang­ing and the fire­place going.  The funny thing about this photo it resur­faced every dozen or so years with a dif­fer­ent name around Christ­mas time and always got a great display.

Roland Oxton & Stan­ley For­man, Boston Press Pho­tog­ra­phers Awards Din­ner, 1978.  Rol­lie  & I share in the team Pulitzer for Fea­ture in 1979 in our cov­er­age for the Her­ald in the “Bliz­zard of 78.”

 

After Rol­lie retired I would see him and his wife at the Dunkin Donut at Bell’s Cir­cle in Revere. It was a real treat for me and I hope for him. He died in 1984. Rol­lie is buried in the ceme­tery oppo­site the Nahant Police Sta­tion.  He must still be lis­ten­ing to police calls.

His son David added some his­tory for this blog and many pho­tos of which I hope are prop­erly dis­played, as he was the best.   

My father served in the US Army dur­ing WWII and was in both Europe and Japan. He was a mem­ber of the photo corps. While in Japan, he had his own Jeep and it had the words Mar­ion Louise writ­ten on the side (the first names of my mother and old­est sis­ter). My father died in Octo­ber 1984. He was 73. He was born and grew up in Chelsea. He only attended school until the 6th grade. His father died that year, and he went out to work to help sup­port his mother.

Please visit David’s web­site and Rollie’s grand­son Timothy’s websites.

http://davidoxton.com/

 

http://vimeo.com/timoxton

Fol­low­ing are sev­eral more pho­tos and mem­o­ries of Rol­lie.  This blog was writ­ten with won­der­ful thoughts and memories. 

Roland Oxton, Archie New­man, Gene Dixon, John Lan­ders Jr., on the set as extras for the Brinks’ Movie late 60s or early 70s.

Leo Tier­ney, Archie New­man, Roland Oxton, Dan Shee­han at the BPPA Awards Din­ner and Rol­lie hold­ing the Rams­dell Tro­phy which he won 5 times.

 

In Dorch­ester there is a Rox­ton Street and one night Rol­lie and I went there so he could send a photo to his son Ronald who was serv­ing in the Army.

 

In 1979 I wrote a let­ter to Roland on his retire­ment. David Oxton sent me a copy dur­ing our recent cor­re­spon­dence. 33 years later and I still had the same mem­o­ries and thoughts although I had for­got­ten about this later.

 

Rol­lie in Winter!

 

23Aug/121

In Between the Big Stories: Crazy Things Happen When You’re Cruising Around Chapter One

Civil War Mon­u­ment top­pled in van­dal­ism. Mon­u­ment was erected in 1908 and restored in 2002.

A cou­ple of weeks ago on my way into Boston to begin my shift I received a call from a source telling me some­where in the City there was ceme­tery van­dal­ism. The source knew the names of two streets but he was not sure of which cemetery.

He gave me the names of Birch & Fairview Streets in Police Dis­trict Five and since I used to live nearby just out­side of Roslin­dale Square I thought it was going to be easy to find.  Prob­lem was I could not find any police look­ing around and the only ceme­tery I knew of was in the Peter’s Hill sec­tion of the Arnold Arbore­tum. It as an old ceme­tery not used any­more but I drove where I should not have and checked it out.  There was noth­ing there and BPD Info Ser­vices had not got­ten any paper­work on it so I moved on to other assignments.

Here is where things get funny in what I do. I was sent to the Readville sec­tion of Boston to cover a story about the unau­tho­rized use of a City fire hydrant to fill a pool with water.  I was with reporter Rhon­della Richard­son and we were not hav­ing much luck in advanc­ing the story.   As we were leav­ing the area I noticed a ceme­tery and the sign on it read “Fairview Ceme­tery.” BINGO, this must be the place I was look­ing for sev­eral hours ear­lier. We drove through the ceme­tery till I saw one of the main­te­nance men and I asked if there had been any van­dal­ism. He pointed me up a hill and said you can­not miss it.

He was cor­rect, there was a mon­u­ment orig­i­nally erected in 1908 to com­mem­o­rate the local heroes of the Civil War.  It was a beau­ti­ful piece of bronze, which the van­dals had knocked off its pedestal. The story itself is com­mon nowa­days but either way it was a ter­ri­ble abuse of an his­tor­i­cal monument.

Then last week I was vis­it­ing the Mar­ket Bas­ket in Chelsea, MA., a local super­mar­ket and as I was leav­ing (with an unneeded desert) there was this young boy prob­a­bly around three, going out the elec­tronic doors almost get­ting into the park­ing lot traf­fic. I looked around, yelled out who belongs to this kid and got no response.

I really did not know what to do. I was afraid to go up and grab the kid think­ing some par­ent would see me near him and you know what hap­pens next.  From about 15 feet I called the kid and told him to fol­low me.  He obvi­ously knew to stay away from strangers and I knew to stay away from him. I sort of coaxed him into the front of the store sig­nal­ing for a front end atten­dant from the store to come over.

A very nice young man took the kid by the hand to take him to the cour­tesy desk. On the way there a worker looked around and was able to spot what appeared to be his grand­mother who had real­ized after at least 5 min­utes she was miss­ing her grand­son. All ended up okay as she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to her.  I think he got the message.

Then Fri­day, same week I went to Malden, MA on a call about mul­ti­ple bee stings. I was think­ing if mul­ti­ple peo­ple were stung it could be a story. I got there about 20 min­utes later.  The Cataldo Ambu­lance was parked and I saw the two med­ical peo­ple from the ambu­lance walk­ing around the forested park and I thought they were still look­ing for victims.

Then I noticed a young boy prob­a­bly ten or so sit­ting on the grass near the ambu­lance, hold­ing a dog and cry­ing his eyes out. I thought he was just hurt­ing from the stings. There was an adult watch­ing over him and I asked him if he was alright and all he could say is his other dog was lost, beg­ging us to please find his dog, between awful sobs. It brought tears to my eyes as I know what it is like to be miss­ing a pet.

He described the dog to me, a medium sized brown and white dog sort of like the one he was hold­ing onto but dif­fer­ent color and a lit­tle big­ger.  I started dri­ving around and when I got to the com­plete oppo­site side of the park I saw three peo­ple hold­ing on to a brown and white dog. I was so excited, got out of the car and asked if they just found it.

The nicest woman told me she found the scared and bee stung dog, called the local PD and got no help. I told her the lit­tle boy who lost it was up the other end and I raced back to get him.  They were so happy and I brought one of the broth­ers back with me to get the dog. In the mean­time the boys’ mother showed up, very upset and when she real­ized all was well she just walked around thank­ing every­one who helped.

It was a nice end­ing to a story that could have ended very dif­fer­ent.  Crazy things when you are cruis­ing around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4Aug/122

Halt Or I’ll Shoot! My Gun Arrest That Did Not Happen

BPD Offi­cer Ken Jame­son mak­ing an arrest in the on the cor­ner of Beach and Wash­ing­ton Streets, down­town Boston, for­merly known as the Com­bat Zone.

Grow­ing up in Revere in the 50s and 60s I was friendly with a lot of cops. Most of them never had to unhol­ster their weapon. Prob­a­bly a good thing as reg­u­lar tar­get prac­tice was not a reg­u­lar practice.

It was a hot sum­mer day, July 4th I think, around 1980, no traf­fic, sun shin­ing, about 8 in the morn­ing. I was dri­ving down Colum­bia Road on the way to the office.  Colum­bia Road sep­a­rates Rox­bury and Dorch­ester  some­times it can be a dicey area. I looked up the street to the cor­ner of Colum­bia Road and Quincy Street and saw this group of 3 or 4 teenagers flip­ping what I thought was a foot­ball. I smiled to myself think­ing, “what fun.”

Then I saw a dis­traught young woman stand­ing out­side of her car cry­ing and scream­ing and I knew it wasn’t a foot­ball they were toss­ing. Yep, it was her pock­et­book going from hand to hand. I put the pedal to the metal in my “Vet” (not really I had a 1975 Buick Sky­lark) and began the pur­suit for the bad guys. I acti­vated my siren bur­glar alarm so they might think I was a cop and went fly­ing after them.

At one point I could have crushed one of the perps against one of the pil­lars from the rail­road bridge we were going under, but thank­fully I had the pres­ence of mind not to. The group ran into a big park try­ing to get away.

I pulled up on the side­walk jumped out of my car and assumed the posi­tion I saw cops do on TV, crouched down using my car as a shield. I was ready to make my cap­ture but first I had to catch them. I reached onto my belt, grabbed my pager and made believe I had a gun. I yelled, “HALT OR I’ll SHOOT”!

My mind was rac­ing and think­ing what am I going to do if they do stop?

BANG, I mean BANG a gun went off! “WTF, was that?” I was shocked; I knew I did not shoot any­thing and I thought I must be in a movie and even looked at my fin­gers, won­der­ing how this happened.

Did I have some mys­te­ri­ous pow­ers? I was look­ing to see if there was smoke com­ing out of my fin­gers like watch­ing an old cow­boy movie where you could see the smoke com­ing out the bar­rel of a weapon just discharged.

Still mys­ti­fied, I looked around and to my right was a tow truck with the dri­ver out on the side of his truck and his 45-caliber pis­tol in the air, which he just fired. Then he runs after the kids, picks up a large rock and throws it at them, hit­ting one of them in the back.

I was still in shock won­der­ing what would have hap­pened had he struck the thieves? I have no idea if he fired at them or in the air to scare them. I looked at him, waved and left, still shak­ing. I would guess he returned the pock­et­book to the woman after he retrieved it when they dropped it.

I con­tin­ued to the office, told sev­eral peo­ple in the news­room the story and had them laugh­ing. Next day in the photo lab wall was a photo of the Cisco Kid, with his som­brero on, his bands of bul­lets hang­ing from his shoul­ders and a pic­ture of me inserted instead of Cisco’s face. It was really funny.

But being there for gun arrests was very unusual back then. Cops did not pull guns out fre­quently. I can tell you there were many news pho­tog­ra­phers who never got pic­tures of a gun arrest. I have been very lucky that way.

My first gun arrest was a few blocks from the office when we were down­town. I got to the cap­ture of a rob­bery sus­pect at the cor­ner of Devon­shire and Milk Streets and they had the sus­pect over a car. All of a sud­den, one of the cops lifted the gun up and I got the shot. Could I have yelled show me the gun? I for­get. Page one though.

I had a streak of about six-gun arrests in less than six months back then. It started in Peabody when reporter Bob Kee­ley and I were dri­ving back to Boston and on the State Police radio I heard a BOLO about an armed rob­bery. Within a minute or two a cruiser spot­ted the truck about a mile in front of us.

We raced to the scene. The cop ordered the dri­ver out by gun­point and I took many pho­tos. I had taken some really good pho­tos and Bob ended up doing a story on the cap­ture. Works out the sus­pect did not rob any­one and I don’t remem­ber if any charges were filed. He report­edly mis­tak­enly left a gas sta­tion with­out pay­ing for gas.

Dur­ing that streak I was cruis­ing down Wash­ing­ton Street in what used to be called the com­bat zone (Wash­ing­ton and Beach Streets) when an inci­dent hap­pened and there I was tak­ing pho­tos of another gun arrest.

MDC Cop and BPD Offi­cer mak­ing an arrest of an alledged stolen car plus other charges against the perp. MDC Police were com­bined with the State Police many years ago.

There was also the time there was a bolo for a per­son wanted for a stab­bing or some­thing like that as I was com­ing to work on my Fri­day morn­ing mid­night shift. All of a sud­den the MDC police (now com­bined with State Police) spot­ted the wanted vehi­cle and chased it from the other side of Boston to about 100 feet of where I was parked.

As I was run­ning over, the cop got out of his cruiser, gun drawn yelling for the perp to put his hands up. I ran over yelling “pho­tog­ra­pher, flash going off” as I did not want the cop to think it was a flash from a gun.

Another thing most news peo­ple don’t get to hear is the sound of gun­fire and I have been at those inci­dents also. The scari­est one was on Boston’s Fen­way. I was in the Ken­more Square area when the call came in for an armed rob­bery on Jer­sey Street, near Fen­way Park. It was at one of those mom and pop mar­kets. Boston Police Office Gene O’Neil was shot at and the win­dow of the store was blown out from the gun­fire. He was not hit but it brought scores of cops and cruis­ers to the area.

The chase ended up on the Fen­way and maybe 25 or more cops sur­rounded the area and there was one shot fired, then there was scores of “POP, POP, POP” sounds. It sounded like every­one with a gun was fir­ing it. I hid behind a wall on the over­pass next to a cop who stood behind his cruiser. I remem­ber when his dis­patch­ers called ask­ing if he needed more help he told them “no” think­ing any more cops there and who knows who will get shot.

The perp was not cap­tured but in the spring a body of a man believed to be the sus­pect was found in the Muddy River where he had been chased and fired upon.

But some­times I do use my com­mon sense. I was work­ing the overnight shift and there was a call for a sus­pect wanted for some­thing in Brighton. BPD had him cor­nered in a back­yard behind a build­ing at the inter­sec­tion of Com­mon­wealth and Brighton Avenue, called Packard Square. I ran down the side of the build­ing towards the back­yard and all of a sud­den a shot was fired in the back­yard. I turned around and ran back to street and instead took the shot of the perp being put into the wagon. Com­mon sense kicked it!

25Feb/121

Cop Shoots Cop, Shoots Self, What A Night!

Shoot­ing scene on Enon Street in Bev­erly, MA

It all started for the cops around 5:30 pm when off duty Bev­erly Police Offi­cer Jason Lan­tych was com­ing out of Star­bucks and was con­fronted by an off duty Hamil­ton Sar­gent Ken­neth Nagy. Hamil­ton is a neigh­bor­ing town of Bev­erly.  Sar­gent Nagy shot the Bev­erly Offi­cer in the upper leg, described by some as the groin area, let your imag­i­na­tion run with that? Then the search was on.

If I was home I would have been maybe 3 min­utes from the scene but my wife and I had just arrived at the Hale Street Tav­ern, on the other side of Bev­erly.  We were meet­ing our friends Cindy and Paul Chasse for din­ner. Before I got out of the car I decided to take my infor­ma­tional pager off my belt and leave it in the car. I fig­ured I was on a per­sonal day off and did not want to be both­ered.  What a mis­take that was which I stated while we were hav­ing din­ner when the calls kept com­ing in.

Then I got my first call as we were about to be seated. It was about a shoot­ing at a Bev­erly Plaza, then another call, this time describ­ing it as a bank rob­bery gone badly with a cop shoot­ing the bad guy. Wrong infor­ma­tion, except that a cop had done the shoot­ing. One of the calls said it was a domes­tic between two cops. All of us at the table were let­ting our imag­i­na­tion run wild try­ing to fig­ure out how it could be a domes­tic shoot­ing between two male cops. Only the inter­est from every­one at the table because of the Bev­erly loca­tion sort of saved me from ruin­ing din­ner with my distractions.

The calls, texts, Nex­tel chirps kept com­ing in (thank­fully for me) in spite of the looks my wife Deb­bie was giv­ing me, I had to answer them.  We find it rude when peo­ple are at a restau­rant and talk on the phone, but this was about a cop shoot­ing and at that time I did not know all the details.

For the next two hours I heard from sev­eral sources includ­ing the office call­ing sev­eral times. When one source told me it was cop on cop I really started won­der­ing if I could just leave? I did that once before at a restau­rant many years ago and there was no con­ver­sa­tion in the house for a few days. That was also a cop shoot­ing many years ago.

We did get to enjoy the meal and a great dessert as I kept won­der­ing if I would be able to work the story after din­ner. One call from Susan Grif­fin on the desk, after the sus­pect had been spot­ted in Bev­erly, won­dered if I could just take Deb­bie and go?

It wasn’t over when we left and I left my won­der­ful wife off at home and sped to the scene. Once I was out and lis­ten­ing to the radios I kept think­ing about some of the BOLOS on the sus­pect cop, one men­tion­ing there was a sui­cide note. Would he return to the scene and do a sui­cide by cop? I had envi­sioned he would pull up, drive through the crime scene tape, get out of his car with his gun out and let it happen.

Reporter Sean Kelly told me he kept think­ing the sus­pect would return as he was doing his live shot. Pho­tog­ra­pher Tim Devlin showed up with his bul­let­proof vest on, but he took it off as the night wore on. Our third pho­tog­ra­pher, David Buswell-Wible also thought he might return so we were unan­i­mous in our thoughts.

Noth­ing was hap­pen­ing, no sight­ings just BOLOs on the car descrip­tion and men­tion­ing he was a cop, armed, dan­ger­ous and he had left a sui­cide note, which we could not con­firm. Any cop who heard that must have thought he did not want to be the one to grant him his wish.

Then around 10:30 as all the TV crews had either done their ten o’clock live shots or were get­ting ready for their eleven, I heard a Bev­erly cop ask for the license plate again. After it was given he said, “he just pulled in behind the shoot­ing scene, by the Gar­den City Pub!”

My adren­a­line went wild I was in my car and moved it about 40 yards to where I should not have been which was about 40 feet from the car.  Sean who got called by the office, said it was the fastest he ever jumped out of our New­Star Truck. He looked over and saw where my car was  told the desk I might be in the cop’s lap.

I rolled down the car win­dows so when I got out hug­ging the car for pro­tec­tion I would be able to hear what the cops were say­ing from the radio traf­fic on my scan­ners. My phone rang sev­eral times from peo­ple lis­ten­ing to their scan­ners and I kept pick­ing it up and hang­ing it up till I finally yelled, “leave me alone!” I had enough to do just try­ing to stay safe and be there for the finish.

It was chaotic as cops with their guns drawn cir­cled the area and at first glance they did not see any­one in the car. More cops, more guns and cops scream­ing at me to get out from where I was. State Police had at Ieast ten heav­ily armed troop­ers in the back within seconds.

I got back in my car hop­ing no one would see me, shoot­ing video through the win­dow, as the perime­ter got tighter. At one point he was thought to be on the rail­road tracks, which backed up to where his car was. So they widened their search while I kept try­ing to keep up with every­thing going on. If there was to be a shootout I wanted it in my video.

I was so excited and yet tried to main­tain some sort of calm­ness, keep­ing my cam­era run­ning even when I was not shoot­ing a spe­cific scene. If there were gun­shots going off I needed to hear them on my tape. I kept get­ting yelled at by cops and kept mov­ing my posi­tion, think­ing what am I nuts, I could be in the line of fire or worst yet in his line of fire.  You know if he shot a cop, a news­man would be no problem!

Then it ended less than ten min­utes later as some­one took a closer look in the car. State Police said he was on a “Code Four,” which means dead. From the video I saw of the vic­tim it appeared he put the driver’s seat back and pulled the trig­ger. Thank­fully all we could see on Tim’s tape was his hands by his side sit­ting in the car as his upper torso was out of sight.

What a night and one I will not be for­get­ting any­time soon.

 

 

 

 

 

20Dec/117

Firefighters Know How to Bury Their Own

Worces­ter Fire­fight­ers honor their fallen hero.

In the last 12 years I have cov­ered the funeral of six Worces­ter Fire­fight­ers. Five of the six died at the Cold Stor­age Ware­house fire on Decem­ber 6, 1999 and the sixth one was last week, just two days after the 12th anniver­sary of that awful fatal fire. Six fire­fight­ers died in the Cold Stor­age fire in 1999 and I would have cov­ered all of them except one of the funer­als was on Sat­ur­day.  I was the pool for most or all of them due to my con­nec­tions with the Boston Fire Depart­ment who helped set up their ser­vices in 1999. For this funeral they assisted and brought their ramp for plac­ing the cas­ket on top of a piece of appa­ra­tus and for the atten­dants to carry it into the church and the gravesite.

I am always reminded from a speech Boston Fire­fight­ers Local 718 Pres­i­dent Neal San­tan­gelo gave many years ago as he addressed the new fire­fight­ers at their swear­ing in. He said, “We will help you to be safe and in the end we will bury you.” I thought that day how scary for the new Jakes, who have not even been to a real fire and were already receiv­ing notice of the real­ity of the job.

Worces­ter Fire­fight­ers bring­ing the cas­ket with Fire­fighter Jon Davies into Church for the memo­r­ial service.

This funeral was no dif­fer­ent than the many I have cov­ered through the years, not just in Worces­ter but many of the cities and towns around our cov­er­age area. Many mem­o­ries of fire­fighter funer­als stick out in my mind. In 1972, when the Ven­dome Hotel Col­lapsed killing 8 Boston Fire­fight­ers, I can remem­ber cov­er­ing the funeral with all the cas­kets lined up at the Cathe­dral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End.  In Clin­ton, the wife of a fire­fighter killed in the line of duty, wear­ing her somber black dress, com­ing down the steps of the Church on that freez­ing cold day with her husband’s charred hel­met in her hands. In Stoughton, the same thing, another hel­met being clutched tightly in the hands of a firefighter.

Com­ing back to last week in Worces­ter, I watched the hel­met of fallen fire­fighter Jon Davies being car­ried by his part­ner on the Res­cue, Brain Car­roll, who was also caught in the col­lapse. He escaped seri­ous injury after being pulled from the rub­ble after being trapped for at least 45 min­utes. He spent less than 48 hours in the hos­pi­tal.  How pained he must have been as he fol­lowed the fire truck with the cas­ket of Davies being brought to his final rest­ing place. He might have been won­der­ing why Jon and not me and his eulogy cer­tainly expressed the emo­tions he was going through.

The day of the inci­dent reporter Kelly Tuthill and I set up at the Worces­ter Firefighter’s Memo­r­ial to watch and talk to peo­ple com­ing to pay their respects. We got a ter­rific inter­view from a high school friend of Davies who was in the area when he found out and stopped to say a prayer. The sad­dest one I saw was a woman who just hugged the memo­r­ial statue while cry­ing. I had assumed it was some­one from the fam­i­lies of the 1999 fire and her emo­tions had been stirred by the new death. I watched her for a few min­utes not bring­ing my cam­era over, as I knew I could not tape the scene with­out putting the light on and upset­ting her. I did go up and ask if I could help her and was told no thank you. Turns out she was the fiancée of the victim.

The wake itself was rou­tine as the media set up across the street from the funeral home, shoot­ing what­ever was going on as folks walked into to give their con­do­lences or maybe to say a prayer.  Then the mood changed, at least for me. Deputy Chief Frank Diliddo came over right before our five o’clock live shot to tell us about an eleven-year-old boy, Jared Flan­ders who rode his bike to the wake to pay his respects. He was seen sit­ting in the third row and peo­ple were won­der­ing who he was. He had come on his own, learned to put his tie on by read­ing instruc­tions from a book, and said he wanted to be there because he really liked firefighters.

Jared Flan­ders with the bag­pipe band on their way to the cemetery.

We inter­viewed the boy and strangely enough when reporters asked him if he wanted to be a fire­fighter he said it was third on his list, pick­ing a lawyer first. He came to be the Worces­ter Fire Department’s good­will per­son and the depart­ment treated him as well as would be expected. The police drove him home that night and next day he was a guest of the fire depart­ment, arriv­ing in the scuba team truck to attend the ser­vices. The boy then got to march with the bag­pipes band in the front row as the fire­fight­ers left the Church.  There was salut­ing as the boy marched the route with them. It was a very uplift­ing moment in an oth­er­wise very sad story.

My assign­ment was to cover the pro­ces­sion for Jack’s Harper’s pieces later in the show, as he was live dur­ing the church ser­vice.  As usual, he did a great job dur­ing the live show, as I went up and down the streets try­ing to get video for him and stills for our web­site. I did very well; tak­ing some good stills and get­ting some of the video, which was needed. Jack had a smor­gas­bord of video as our cov­er­age was every­where and he did a great job sum­ma­riz­ing the ser­vice in his later pieces that day.

Jack alerted me the fire­fighter car­ry­ing the hel­met was Fire­fighter Brian Car­roll. I spent the next 20 min­utes fol­low­ing the engine com­pany with the cas­ket on it look­ing for a clear shot of Car­roll.  I spot­ted the young boy march­ing, and then the appa­ra­tus and then Fire­fighter Car­roll came into view hold­ing the helmet.

Fire­fighter Brian Car­roll with his partner’s hel­met in hand fol­lows the appa­ra­tus with Fire­fighter Jon Davies’ cas­ket on their way to the memo­r­ial service.

At the end of fire­fighter ser­vices, a fire depart­ment mem­ber rings a very shiny bell. They ring 1–1, 1–1, then again 1–1, 1–1, the “all-out” sig­nal to an alarm of fire. Sadly, on this day the “all-out” call was not to sig­nify the end of a fire, but instead was a somber reminder that for Fire­fighter Jon Davies, the final “all-out” has been sounded.

Addi­tional Infor­ma­tion on the Worces­ter Six from Decem­ber 6, 1999 from Robert Win­ston, Boston Fire Dis­trict Chief, retired. A friend of mine from his BFD days. 

Cama­raderie Under Fire: A Remem­brance of the Worces­ter Tragedy

 

Worces­ter Fire­fighter Memo­r­ial day of fatal fire which killed FF Jon Davies.

It was Decem­ber 3, 1999 when an aban­doned cav­ernous ware­house was set afire by two home­less peo­ple who “lived” in the hulk­ing struc­ture. This was the Worces­ter Cold and Stor­age Ware­house that was located in the City of Worces­ter, Mass­a­chu­setts. The scene of this fire was to become one of fiery col­lapse, death, heartache, hero­ism, and cama­raderie under the most extreme fire­fight­ing conditions.

The home­less man made sex­ual advances to his girl friend and she had rebuffed his sug­ges­tions. He became angry and the two were argu­ing and throw­ing things. They were using can­dles for light and one of the lighted can­dles was knocked into a pile of debris that quickly ignited. The fire spread as the two squat­ters fled into the cold night air leav­ing the fire to grow into what would become one of the worst Line Of Duty (fire ser­vice) Deaths (LODD) in the his­tory of the Worces­ter Fire Department.

Fire­fight­ers in many fire engines responded to the grow­ing fire. More aid was called to the scene as it became obvi­ous to the chief in charge that this was no rou­tine fire-fight. Heavy smoke turned to vis­i­ble flames as the fire ate through the nearly win­dow­less ark of a struc­ture. Inside were many fire­fight­ers strain­ing to extin­guish the flames. The inte­rior was a maze of dark­ened rooms and cor­ri­dors. Six floors of them! Debris was scat­tered every­where adding to the dif­fi­cul­ties of search­ing blindly to find the seat of the fire and being able to exit the build­ing in a hurry if needed.

A num­ber of Fire­fight­ers became dis­ori­ented in the smoke, heat and dark­ness. They radioed for help. Brother fire­fight­ers entered the burn­ing build­ing to try and res­cue their now trapped com­rades. Time after time these rugged fire­fight­ing vet­er­ans made dan­ger­ous and heroic attempts to find their col­leagues. It was no use.

The fire had been eat­ing away at the strength of the brick and wood edi­fice. It started to col­lapse. The fire chief in com­mand ordered all fire­fight­ers to stop res­cue attempts and to vacate the fire build­ing. Six Worces­ter Fire­fight­ers would per­ish this night despite the Her­culean efforts of a small army of fire­fight­ers. Recov­ery of their bod­ies would last for an ardu­ous somber eight days and nights.

The call went out across the New Eng­land region for assis­tance to respond to Worces­ter. Many emer­gency and non-emergency per­son­nel turned out to help. They came by the hun­dreds to stand with and work with their brother and sis­ter fire­fight­ers until the dif­fi­cult and hon­or­able task of recov­ery was completed.

The City of Boston Fire Depart­ment imme­di­ately sent per­son­nel and equip­ment to the tragic scene. I was one of the many that were sent. My role was one of the safety oper­a­tional sec­tor chiefs. Those of us that were assigned that task would check for safety issues, look for haz­ards and pre­vent any fur­ther injuries or deaths. Prior to our arrival at the ware­house fire tragedy, we were given a brief­ing that included spe­cific instruc­tions and alerted us that the Worces­ter Fire­fight­ers were under severe emo­tional stress. We were told that tem­pers may be short and to use tact and to be sen­si­tive to the raw emo­tions being expe­ri­enced by the Worces­ter Firefighters.

It was the sec­ond night of the eight nights of recov­ery oper­a­tions. The ware­house roof, floors and two exte­rior walls had fallen and were now huge piles of smol­der­ing debris. The dan­ger of addi­tional struc­tural col­lapse and of fire­fight­ers falling through burned out floors haunted us. The safety offi­cers were kept busy and were vig­i­lant. Injury or worse was at every step.

As I was sur­vey­ing a sec­tion of the build­ing I noticed that a Worces­ter Fire Lieu­tenant was stand­ing in a very dan­ger­ous loca­tion. Debris was loosely dan­gling above him. I approached the man to warn him of the sit­u­a­tion. He was a tall lean guy. Much taller than I. His face was black with soot and his eyes were red and swollen.  He looked very tired and tense. I tried to warn him, as del­i­cately as I could, that he was in a dan­ger­ous spot. What we were cau­tioned about prior to our arrival at this fire was about to hap­pen. The Lieu­tenant became angry with me and got in my face. He didn’t care what rank I was or that I was look­ing out for his safety. Angry emo­tion packed words were hurled at me. I tried to rea­son with him to no avail. A Worces­ter Chief Offi­cer was stand­ing nearby and saw and heard what was hap­pen­ing. He imme­di­ately posi­tioned him­self between the lieu­tenant and myself and defused what could have become an ugly sit­u­a­tion. I explained the rea­son why I had tried to talk to his lieu­tenant and then I pointed upwards to the hang­ing debris. The chief under­stood, apol­o­gized to me and assured me that he’d talk to his lieu­tenant. We both knew and under­stood how tem­pers can flare under the unprece­dented stress­ful cir­cum­stances that we were all caught up in.

Eight days had passed since the fire began. I had returned to the scene and was again assigned as a safety oper­a­tional sec­tor chief. The pile of smol­der­ing debris that was once this old ware­house had been reduced in size and fully extin­guished. Five of Worcester’s Bravest had been recov­ered. One was still buried some­where in the remain­ing mounds of twisted steel, burned wood and bricks. As I sur­veyed the scene I noticed the lieu­tenant that I had the ear­lier encounter with. He was search­ing some rub­ble. I inquired about him and was told that he had been at the scene from the fire’s start and had refused to go home for eight days and nights.

The cold day turned into a very cold and windy Decem­ber night as recov­ery oper­a­tions con­tin­ued for the last fire­fighter. Fire­fighter Paul Brotherton’s body was located under one of the many mounds of bricks and charred wood. His pre­cise and somber removal from the debris will be a pic­ture in my mind’s eye that I will never forget.

It was so cold and dark and quiet as Fire­fighter Brotherton’s body was taken away in an ambu­lance. The sad task of recov­ery was finally over that night. The heal­ing could begin.

There was a large crowd of peo­ple stand­ing qui­etly beyond the yel­low safety tape that sur­rounded the ruins. Hun­dreds of fire­fight­ers formed two par­al­lel lines lead­ing from the destroyed build­ing out to the crowd of onlook­ers. The Worces­ter Fire­fight­ers climbed down from the piles of debris and slowly walked between the two rows of fire­fight­ers who had come from other fire depart­ments. As the Worces­ter Fire­fight­ers passed by us we saluted them, applauded them, shook their hands and some gave hugs. One by one they filed through the rows. A walk of honor and consolation.

I barely rec­og­nized the lieu­tenant whom I encoun­tered days before. It was his height that caused me to look harder at him than at his broth­ers. His face was now gaunt, black­ened and the eyes were red and sunken. We looked at each other. He rec­og­nized me and stopped walk­ing. It was more like a slow shuf­fle. I shook his hand first. Then the lieu­tenant lit­er­ally col­lapsed into my arms. We embraced each other as only fire­fight­ers can do at a time like this and he began to sob. Even through our heavy wet pro­tec­tive firefighter’s gear he felt frail and unsteady. Tears stained our faces as we looked at each other. Unbe­liev­ably this exhausted weary fire lieu­tenant apol­o­gized to me. I was sort of…stunned. I told him that it was okay, gave him my con­do­lences for his losses and hugged the man again. I watched him as he walked away shoul­der to shoul­der with his comrades.

I never saw the man again. I have thought of him from time to time when the mem­ory of the Worces­ter Tragedy comes back to me or when I see the word “camaraderie.”

Robert M. Winston

Boston Dis­trict Fire Chief-Retired

 

 

14Dec/110

Make Love Not War

 

Occupy Boston dur­ing arrests, freeze frame taken from my video.

After 45 years and hun­dreds of police con­fronta­tions I saw the slo­gan born in the 60s when the anti Viet­nam War protests came to life, only reversed. It was Sat­ur­day morn­ing at 5am when Boston Police moved in on the Occupy Boston pro­tes­tors and the city took back the Dewey Square encampment.

I had got­ten cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion Fri­day, that the police would be mov­ing in and, along with the infor­ma­tion the office received, the sta­tion cov­ered what we thought was going to hap­pen all night, Fri­day into Sat­ur­day morning.

Thurs­day the Judge’s order came down telling Mayor Menino and the City of Boston they could do what they wanted as far as remov­ing the pro­tes­tors from their camp. I stayed at the site till 2am Fri­day but noth­ing hap­pened that morning.

I left my house at 2am Sat­ur­day morn­ing to posi­tion myself at what was to be and spent the next cou­ple of hours try­ing to stay awake. Some­times I did but there were those five-minute dozes so I kept set­ting my alarm for 10 min­utes away so I would not sleep through the action.

There was radio silence on the scan­ners except for two unusual calls around 4:30am. I had an addi­tional advan­tage when a friend of mine chirped me around the same time to say he saw a group of cops form­ing at one of their loca­tions. I was stand­ing on the cor­ner of Sum­mer Street and Atlantic Avenue look­ing up Sum­mer Street towards South Boston, I saw a Boston Cop down the next block appear­ing to be ready to direct traffic.

Then the lights started to come over the hori­zon, hun­dreds of lights and I did see one blue light, which was prob­a­bly the error of who­ever turned it on. There were more head­lights and even more as the parade of vehi­cles just kept extend­ing. I got on the phone with the office and spoke to Lawrence Crook on the assign­ment desk to tell him the police were com­ing. I heard Gerry Ward­well in the back­ground telling whomever to launch the heli­copter. It was excit­ing and of course, nerve wrack­ing since the group was still a block or so away. I hoped I was correct.

When they arrived they were mostly in econo van type vehi­cles, scores of them. Noth­ing like I was used to from the 60s and 70s when the TPF (Tac­ti­cal Police Force) would roll in with their blue lights blaz­ing, sirens scream­ing, horses clip­perty clop­ping and motor­cy­cles roar­ing, plus they had a con­verted school bus painted BPD col­ors with a small sign in the win­dow call­ing it the “War Wagon”.

This was well orga­nized, cops get­ting out of their vehi­cles encir­cling the camp and the Spe­cial Oper­a­tions team wear­ing their black fatigues. The only armor they had on them was mul­ti­ple plas­tic ties, which would be used as handcuffs.

The Occupy pro­tes­tors who were awake sounded the alarm, run­ning through the encamp­ment scream­ing “Get up, get up, they are fuck­ing here, wake the fuck up!” It was the mod­ern day ver­sion of Paul Revere and William Dawes’ ride to warn the Patri­ots the British were com­ing. I recorded it all and got myself in a posi­tion where I could escape the cor­ralling of the media as most were kept in one place, which gave every­one some access and but also kept us out of the way of the operation.

The con­tain­ing of the media was not to hide any­thing. They needed to able to keep us from roam­ing freely or we could have com­pro­mised the oper­a­tion. I was able to escape the stock­yard cor­ral and wan­dered freely for the first few min­utes. I fol­lowed the Spe­cial Oper­a­tions group as they tipped over tents and sliced some of them up. Before each search and destroy mis­sion the offi­cers made sure there was no one in the tents, yelling and look­ing in to make sure they were empty before com­plet­ing their final mission.

At the begin­ning of the oper­a­tion I was inside the encamp­ment as Cap­tain Bernie O’Rourke, Super­in­ten­dent William Evans and Super­in­ten­dent Dan Linskey used bull­horns to tell all the pro­tes­tors what was going to hap­pen, giv­ing them all time to leave. The pro­tes­tors could pick up some of their belong­ings and not be arrested.  The police were almost beg­ging them to leave and being polite beyond belief. Dur­ing the 60s, if you were in the way it did not mat­ter if you were a pro­tes­tor or a cam­era car­ry­ing media per­son, if you were in the way you had to go. Many times back then you either left within the first few min­utes on your own or you left in the wagon, and the arrest process was any­thing but gentle.

When the police finally started mak­ing arrests we were all pushed back. The paddy wag­ons were used to trans­port the arrested and when they backed in we lost our view. I spoke to Jamie Keneally, one of the BPD spokes­men work­ing with us, and asked about a pool pho­tog­ra­pher for the arrests. He spoke to Super­in­ten­dent Linskey and the next thing I knew I was in amongst the cops and Occupy Peo­ple as they were hand­cuffed and placed in the wagon.

When a few of the pro­tes­tors locked arms the cops very gen­tly pulled them apart. I watched Lt. Bob Merner (a cop who loves what he does) sep­a­rate them and make sure no one was hurt. To the end they were giv­ing a chance to leave and not be arrested. I heard both Linskey and Evans try­ing to con­vince some of them they could just walk away and not get cuffed and arrested. For the police it was like “mak­ing love not war.”

Wow, this whole oper­a­tion was so excit­ing, I got to do three phone inter­views dur­ing our morn­ing show. Ed Hard­ing, the anchor, asked me a cou­ple of ques­tions and let me talk about what I had seen. I have decided if there is ever an open­ing for “Nurs­ing Home News” I will be a can­di­date. I’d be per­fect; an older, over­weight, prac­ti­cally bald, shrink­ing anchor. All they will have to do is find some clothes for me to wear besides the jeans and sweat­shirts I own now.

17Oct/113

The Best Aftermath Wins

Vehi­cle which was struck and then burst into flames, Lynn, MA

After 45 years of chas­ing news pro­fes­sion­ally  I real­ize I can­not be the first on the scene with a cam­era unless I am the first one on the scene. Every­one is ready to cap­ture the moment hap­pen­ing in front of them.It started about mid­night last night when in the back­ground as I was sort of sleep­ing I heard some­one on my scan­ners say, “fully involved.” I had not a clue who it was and as quickly as I turned over to see the scan­ner dis­play, the chan­nel changed and with­out my read­ing glasses on I could not have seen it anyway.

Sec­onds later my Nex­tel chirped from a scan­ner buffs call to tell me about a seri­ous acci­dent in Lynn MA. I was up get­ting dressed when I got my 2nd call this time on the home phone. There was also a voice mail from a friend who on sighted the acci­dent. When I got to the scene of the hor­rific acci­dent I noticed there was plenty of access visu­ally to the two car acci­dent with one car totaled includ­ing hav­ing been fully involved in fire and the other which had 5 peo­ple in it pretty much crushed from the impact. It was the car with the five peo­ple in it, which struck the first car. The car, which was struck, burst into flames, the dri­ver got out of the car aglow with the fire engulf­ing him.

First thing I noticed was all the peo­ple with their cell phones work­ing the scene. I knew right away to get what I could of the after­math then start the search for some­one who had some good visu­als. I was across the street from the dam­aged cars when this young fel­low found me and told me about his video, the car fully involved in flame and the dri­ver run­ning around on fire. I looked at the  video and said my sta­tion would like to pur­chase it. He was all excited and the arrange­ments were made for him to email in the video. Usu­ally the video or stills I find are “good enough” for use on web­sites and even to be broad­cast on a news report.

The prob­lem was and is as a long time news pho­tog­ra­pher I can­not beat the com­pe­ti­tion any­more. The com­pe­ti­tion is any­one who has a cell phone, smart phone or any other portable device, which takes stills or video. The other prob­lem being prac­ti­cally every­one has the tech­nol­ogy and knows what to do with it. Of course there is my brother in-law and uncle who have not a clue of how to work their phones other than to say hello. The cur­rent news per­son not only has to get to a scene, sum up what is needed to cover the story then search for the per­son with the best images they can get for their news orga­ni­za­tion or social media network.

This is the link to the images and video cap­tured at the scene and aired by WCVB-TV by  smart phone user Stephen Socci. 

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/29502356/detail.html

 http://www.thebostonchannel.com/slideshow/news/29500137/detail.html

I do well on the search for the best stuff avail­able as my sta­tion sort of allows me to make offers to the owner of these images with a finan­cial reward. Not only do I try to get there first I have to be first in gath­er­ing other people’s stuff. The most impor­tant words in what we do with instant media is “right now” and I plan to be all over it.

Many years ago dur­ing a hol­i­day din­ner with a fam­ily friend the host, David Estes kept talk­ing to me about how won­der­ful it was to be pub­lished. I had never given it any thought. I was pub­lished every­day and took it for granted. So the bot­tom line here is every­one is a news pho­tog­ra­pher whether they really are a news pho­tog­ra­pher. So if you are a “real” news pho­tog­ra­pher get to the inci­dent, size it up and make sure you shoot the best after­math, as that is all that is going to be left most times.

Back in the late 70s I cov­ered an MIT Com­mence­ment where Lee Iacocca spoke and his last words were “grad­u­ates, start your engines.”

As the great news pho­tog­ra­pher Nat Whit­te­more once told me when I switched to TV, “daz­zle them with your footwork.”

In the new world of news I say, “good enough video gets pub­lished and the pro­fes­sional news pho­tog­ra­phers must see what oth­ers don’t see and make theirs more compelling.”

FYI, when I asked my daugh­ter Molly if she had read this blog her answer was “do you mean the one where you whine about peo­ple and their iPhone photos?”

 

24Jul/113

Tankers: Great Balls of Fire!

Gaso­line tanker burn­ing, Saugus MA, Essex Street Exit.

Gaso­line tankers, ter­ri­ble dan­ger, deaf­en­ing explo­sions and many times tragic deaths.  As I review the many I have cov­ered, seven at today’s count. I know of two which resulted in a death or severe injury. The worst one being my first big story in 1966, a month after I began at the Record Amer­i­can (ref­er­enced in a another blog on this site “my first major tradgedy, 8 DOA”) and now this one on July 23, 2011.  

My first call for the inci­dent came from my friend Alan who is a free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher for the Lynn Item. He is up all night lis­ten­ing to the scan­ners. While mine are run­ning the prob­lem is with our room air con­di­tioner on and my hard of hear­ing ears I was hav­ing a prob­lem hear­ing the radios which are run­ning next to my side of the bed the extra help is needed. Thank­fully I get it.

Alan said a trac­tor trailer flipped over in either Saugus or Revere as both police depart­ments were yakking about it. He said they were say­ing Essex Street. I imme­di­ately knew in my dazed state of wakeup it was Essex Street in Saugus. I thought he meant a large trac­tor trailer and the sad­dle tanks had caught fire not real­iz­ing for a minute or two it was a gaso­line tanker.

I got up slid down the pole (only kid­ding) got dressed quickly (my clothes and equip­ment are always ready) but at my age I have to make a pit stop before I get going and then I have this thing about brush­ing my teeth so that took another minute. Unless my des­ti­na­tion is within a cou­ple of min­utes of my house and the extra minute or two is going to be too costly I stop for these chores.

I made great time get­ting there, no real traf­fic and know­ing the area of Route One and lis­ten­ing to the radios I thought I could sneak around the road blocks through the Square One Mall park­ing lot and it worked. I also knew the police would not have all their resources in place to block off every­thing so soon. A few min­utes later I might have had prob­lems get­ting as close as I did.

Great Balls of Fire

So there it was, a tanker on its side, flames shoot­ing 60 plus feet in the air and explo­sive thun­der from the igni­tions of the fuel tak­ing place, great TV which was the only thing I was think­ing about not know­ing at this time a life has been lost and another per­son severely burned. That knowl­edge would put a damper on the excite­ment I was enjoy­ing as I had kicked butt with my images.

I was stand­ing in the south­bound lane of Route One and the truck was less than 30–40 yards in front of me.  I wished once again I had brought my tri­pod but car­ry­ing my still cam­era, a 22 pound plus video cam­era, two phones, extra bat­ter­ies was enough. It was swel­ter­ing out there from the sum­mer tem­per­a­tures, with the humid­ity very high and add to that the heat from the fire; the tri­pod stays in the car. There was also the thought of addi­tional explo­sions and hav­ing to run for cover. Less is bet­ter some­times. Yes I am sec­ond guess­ing myself because the tri­pod would have meant stead­ier video but when the com­pe­ti­tion is far behind it doesn’t really mat­ter. I envy those who can carry everything.

Tanker on its side still burning.

After spend­ing a long time on the south­bound side I ven­tured over to another angle closer to the tanker.  I was con­cerned if I left where I was I might lose the great spot I had but I needed other angles. The funny part of this is I kept hear­ing explo­sions but the shots I was mak­ing of the burn­ing fuel did not show any big blasts. I real­ized these explo­sions were tak­ing place about 1500 to 2000 feet behind the fire well into the res­i­den­tial areas of Saugus where a house and other struc­tures caught fire after the fuel floated down an adja­cent stream.

After get­ting these shots I walked back to my orig­i­nal loca­tion saw a rank­ing trooper and asked if I could go north in the south and then go south in the north lanes as I needed to be on the other side. I was told “Stan­ley you have been around long enough, be care­ful and if you get stopped tell them I said it was okay.” I got to the other side and began trudg­ing up and down the ramp com­plex to get what I needed. Dur­ing all of this I was putting the video cam­era down and cap­tur­ing great still images with my dig­i­tal cam­era. I guess I don’t know how to use my IPhone cam­era as I could not get a really good shot of the fire with it or maybe the shut­ter of the IPhone is too slow to stop the action?

I did what I had to do, left the scene, drove to Revere where I could feed my video(I have a microwave trans­mit­ter in my com­pany vehi­cle but I need line of site for a cou­ple of receive sites in Boston and or Need­ham)  for the Eye Opener show.  In the mean­time the office had sent a reporter, John Atwa­ter, a satel­lite truck and two more pho­tog­ra­phers; it was like we struck a third alarm while the fire depart­ment struck 8 alarms. We kicked butt, live on the high­way through­out our show and we had the video to back up the talk. We were walk­ing the walk and talk­ing the talk.

Under con­trol as Massport’s Engine Five plays foam on the burn­ing gaso­line bring­ing it under control.

I reflected the rest of the day about the other tanker fires I have cov­ered in my 45 years as a news pho­tog­ra­pher. The first one I cov­ered was about 40 plus years ear­lier and less than a mile from where we were. It was also north­bound on Route One and I remem­ber the fire fight­ers chas­ing rolling streams of burn­ing gaso­line down the high­way but I don’t remem­ber any struc­tures burn­ing or injuries.

Another one was on route 93 north­bound in the Read­ing area in 1978. I was wear­ing a walk­ing cast after surgery for an Achilles ten­don rup­ture.  I had a plas­tic mate­r­ial boot on it to pro­tect it from water and there I was on the high­way dodg­ing burn­ing gaso­line and water so my plas­ter cast would not melt.

In Methuen one week­end morn­ing a tanker blew up at a neigh­bor­hood gas sta­tion but his time the gaso­line was con­tained in a blown-up piece of the tanker burn­ing as if it was in a bar­beque pit. After the ini­tial explo­sion it just burned straight up for a cou­ple of hours. For the most part the fire depart­ment pro­tected the expo­sures and let it burn itself out.

A cou­ple of years ago I got a call on a Sat­ur­day morn­ing from Matt Wilder the morn­ing pro­ducer who heard the explo­sion out­side of the Chan­nel Five Stu­dios in Need­ham, on Route 128/95. He looked out the win­dow, saw the large loom up and called me. How frus­trat­ing it was as I knew no mat­ter how fast I could get there it would not be fast enough as 40 miles can only be cov­ered in no less than 30 plus min­utes. As I was cir­cling 128, watch­ing the large fun­nel cloud of smoke and I knew when I got there it would be dis­si­pated. When I did finally get there I was directed off the exit ramp. I walked down a par­al­lel street, fol­lowed the hose lines and even­tu­ally talked my way onto the high­way. It ended up being okay as I was the only one who was able to talk to the lucky unin­jured dri­ver about what happened.

I think the biggest story of a tanker rollover and explo­sion was the one in Everett a cou­ple of win­ters ago. I was lying in bed wide awake around 3AM and heard a trooper call in say­ing a tanker had just exploded at the route 99 overpass/rotary in Everett. This loca­tion over­looked an elderly res­i­den­tial apart­ment build­ing and houses.

I had to pass the scene I was at Sat­ur­day to get to this inferno.  Down Route One straight up Route 99 won­der­ing where the road­blocks would be hop­ing it was close enough to the scene to be able to do my job. I was able to work my way around sev­eral obsta­cles, ran through the snow cov­ered streets. My video showed what a great job the cops and fire­fight­ers were doing to help res­i­dents evac­u­ate their homes. There was one funny hap­pen­ing as Everett Police were help­ing the elderly from their res­i­dence, push­ing wheel­chairs and try­ing to keep every­one calm one woman said to me “this reminds me of the war years in Lon­don when I used to be taken to a shel­ter when the bomb­ings started.”  I asked her “when was the last time she had been up this late” and she smiled at me.

Below are links to great sto­ries and pho­tos done for my sta­tion WCVB-TV,

www.thebostonchannel.com.

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/28643466/detail.html

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/28648897/detail.html

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/slideshow/news/28642763/detail.html?qs=;s=1;p=/news/;dm=ss;w=400

 

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