More than 200 people gathered Sunday afternoon at the Vendome Fire Memorial in the Back Bay for a wreath-laying ceremony to honor nine Boston firefighters who died four decades ago battling a blaze in the Hotel Vendome at Commonwealth Avenue and Dartmouth Street.
“It was my worst night on the job, believe me,” said Charlie Seaboyer, 68, of Dennis, after the ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the fire that began on the afternoon of June 17, 1972.
He recalled finding the body of his friend and colleague, Richard Magee Sr., in the rubble of an interior wall that had collapsed in the abandoned hotel, killing Magee and eight others.
Magee’s son Richard Magee Jr., a district fire chief in Boston, met Seaboyer for the first time at Sunday’s ceremony, under a brilliant afternoon sky.
“I’m honored to meet him,” Magee said.
Seaboyer and the other firefighters who rescued 16 men and recovered the bodies of the fallen took a colossal risk, Magee said. “When they did that, that was extremely dangerous. There were a lot of ways to get hurt and killed.”
Sunday’s solemn ceremony included a rendition of “Amazing Grace” from a Boston Fire Department a cappella group and music from the Boston Gaelic Fire Brigade.
Relatives of the nine firefighters laid wreaths in front of their names carved into the memorial. Family members received medals commemorating their sacrifices.
Catherine Keane, 72, of Billerica, whose husband, Thomas W. Beckwith, then 35, was killed in the fire, said she was moved by the ceremony.
“It means everything to me, everything,” an emotional Keane said.
In addition to Beckwith and Magee, the other firefighters who died were Joseph F. Boucher, 27; Lieutenant Thomas J. Carroll, 52; Charles E. Dolan, 48; Lieutenant John E. Hanbury Jr., 46; John E. Jameson, 52; Paul J. Murphy, 36; and Joseph P. Saniuk, 48.
Edward Kelly, former president of the Boston firefighters union and current head of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, a statewide union, said during the ceremony that the men set an example for all future members of the department.
“The sacrifice of the Vendome nine is the greatest example for us to live up to as Boston firefighters,” he said.
Paul Christian, former commissioner of the Fire Department, said during the ceremony that he had battled previous fires with some of the men who were killed.
“Their untimely deaths have had a lasting impact on all of us,” Christian said. “Especially the families who were left behind.”
Patricia Moccia, of Arlington, was 2 years old when she lost her father, Lieutenant Carroll.
“It’s just nice to know that they’re remembered in such a nice way,” she said.