A Thanksgiving To Remember

Boston Firefighter George Girvan rushes Tammi to safety after her rescue from her home on West Sixth Street, South Boston in 1977.

For 44 years this past week I have been covering the news of the day around New England, mostly in Boston. I have tried to capture the moment of many news events and most of them were not happy stories.

Personally, when I photograph a story I always try not to portray a victim as “a victim”. I don’t perform brain surgery or save lives directly, but I hope that some of my images might have changed a life for the positive, or made someone feel better about what is happening or has happened without hurting those directly involved in the story along the way.

This past July, Tammi Brownlee (full story on website) contacted me about an image I took in January, 1977.  It was a long time ago but fortunately I had the negatives and was able to help Tammi and do a couple of great news stories along the way.

I received an email this morning which I want to share. For me, it sort of makes the photos I have taken that have caused people pain when looking at them worthwhile.  Tammi has given me permission to share but first I will tell you about my great day, Thursday.

Steve Lacy, a WCVB-TV reporter, and I traveled to Tammi’s home to interview her and her brother David Gladu whom she has spent more than half her life searching for to do a Thanksgiving story for the 6 o’clock news.  We were both very excited about the story but of course who knew how good it would look on air?

We arrived to a happy home where Tammi and her two children Chris and Ashley along with her boyfriend Chad were getting ready for Thanksgiving and her brother David along with his wife Tina would be joining in the dinner.

Tammi and David

The day was both fun and sad but more importantly it was a remembrance of how bad life can be and then how good it can become. We learned a lot from the conversations.  I knew Tammi had been searching for a half brother and sister since her teenage years but I did not know that her brother David had no idea that Tammi existed.

He told us he had been given up for adoption when he was two along with his sister Eleanor who was one at the time.  He spent a few years in foster care and was adopted when he was six.  He had no idea that Eleanor existed until he was around fifteen years old and then his search began.  He got nowhere and finally stopped the active search.

Tammi found out in her teens that her brother and sister existed and she continued the search for more than half her life.  David only learned about Tammi in the last couple of months. Tammi found him on October 7th this year after she had found Eleanor a few months before.

It was a really feel good story.  I don’t cover that many of those types of stories and Steve did a wonderful job of putting it out for viewers.  Here I have been thinking what a wonderful thing this has been for me and today I got this email which makes it all worthwhile.

Tammi’s Email

I am so glad to be able to meet my brother and sister this year!  I am pleased with the videos that were done for both my sister and me and my brother and me as well!  I have been thinking a lot about the book I have written and even though I have not come up with a proper name for it yet (it will come to me) I have thought about how I want the cover of the book to look.  The picture that you took of the firefighter carrying me I think would be a perfect one to use, one of the titles I have thought of is “Out of the Fire and Ashes”, this one stays with me.  What do you think?

Thank you so much for helping me, your excitement kept me going, where years past I would give up and wait till I had the strength to search again, but you gave me the perseverance to stick with it longer and that is how I was able to find them.  I will always be grateful to you for that!  It has been hard to write my story, as I have buried almost all of my memories to protect myself, most of them are not good.  But my ending is perfect!  David, Eleanor and I are planning a time already of when we can all get together; I still need a picture of all three of us!

I hope you have a great day!


Please visit my website for the links to the stories about the Southie Fire 1977.

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