Thirty firefighters were recognized Thursday for rushing to people’s aid during the Boston Marathon bombing and the shooting several days later of two police officers as the alleged bombers tried to flee the area.
The honors dominated the 16th annual “Firefighter of the Year” awards, which were handed out to individual firefighters and entire departments by Governor Deval Patrick and other dignitaries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“It was very much like a celebration but in other ways it was solemn,” State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, who heads the state Department of Fire Services, said in a telephone interview. “We take very seriously the job of a firefighter.”
The entire Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown fire departments were awarded for their “heroic on-duty responses to extraordinarily horrific events,” the fire services department said in a statement.
“It is in [a firefighter’s] blood to run toward disaster and bring stability to an emergency situation,” said Coan. “Today was our day to honor those firefighters.”
In addition to on-duty firefighters, the award recognized a number of off-duty firefighters who burst into action when the bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others on April 15.
The award also recognized those who responded to the scene when the Marathon bombers allegedly tried to flee the area several days later and killed MIT police officer Sean Collier.
One of the firefighters honored, Robert O’Donnell, had been waiting at the Marathon finish line to watch his son cross, but instead, the Stoughton fire captain and an emergency room nurse jumped over the barricades to apply tourniquets to victims.
Captain Dennis Levasseur, an off-duty firefighter from Salem, was watching the event from the bleachers when the bombs went off. He helped spectators clear the scene and assisted first responders, the fire services department said.