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Candlelight vigil held in East Boston to honor fallen firefighters

About 40 people participated in a candlelight vigil Thursday that was held in East Boston to honor two firefighters who were killed fighting a blaze on Wednesday.

Jim Davis/Globe staff

About 40 people participated in a candlelight vigil Thursday that was held in East Boston to honor two firefighters who were killed fighting a blaze on Wednesday.

About 40 people gathered in East Boston Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil to honor the two Boston firefighters who were killed while fighting Wednesday’s nine-alarm blaze in the Back Bay and to express the sympathy that has gripped the city and region.

East Boston residents Joe Ruggiero III, 26, and Kevin Frank, 36, who organized the meeting through Facebook, put the last minute vigil together.

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“We thought it would be a good idea to get something together tonight and honor those who serve the city,” said Ruggiero. “They risk their lives for the safety of the city.”

Residents of all ages shared their candles’ flames in Central Square Park as the sun set, an American flag standing at half-staff nearby.

The nine-alarm fire, fueled by 45 mile-per-hour winds, ripped through 298 Beacon St. Wednesday afternoon and claimed the lives of Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, who were found in the basement of the four-story apartment building.

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The loss of Kennedy and Walsh struck the heart of many East Boston residents as they gathered around 7 p.m. to show support for the fallen firefighters.

Frank commended the Boston Fire Department, calling their work and commitment to the city “remarkable.”

“It’s tragic,” he said. “The guys who were killed could have just as easily been killed coming to a fire at my house. They could have pulled me out of a burning room just as easily and without any care for their own safety. The fact that they were at a different address in Boston doesn’t mean anything to me and these are the same guys who are standing by right now if something happened.”

Families stood in the park guarding their candles from the wind with paper cups, children walked with dogs, and neighbors conversed over the tragedy.

Councilor Salvatore LaMattina and state Representative Carlo P. Basile were present for the vigil, conversing with families and holding candles.

“We’re one big family in Boston, this is Boston Strong,” said LaMattina. “We have neighborhoods come out to grieve and show their respect for our fallen heroes, and to let their families know that our hearts and our thoughts and our prayers are with them.

“My heart goes out to all the firefighters in the city of Boston,” said LaMattina. “They’re our heroes. They run into burning buildings when we run out.”

Derek J. Anderson can be reached at derek.anderson@globe.com.
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