In South Boston school, outpouring for fallen firefighters

Students worked on posters at Oliver H. Perry School in South Boston.
Students worked on posters at Oliver H. Perry School in South Boston.(Photo courtesy of Jeff Durney)

Room 9 in the Oliver H. Perry K-8 School in South Boston has been busier than usual this week.

What started as an emotional gesture by a single class distraught over the death of two Boston firefighters has turned into a schoolwide effort to raise money for the firefighters’ families.

Students at the school have been creating and selling posters bearing the Boston Fire Department emblem to benefit a memorial fund set up for the firefighters who died last week battling a blaze in a Back Bay building.

Jeff Durney, who has been a special education teacher at the school for five years, came up with the idea Friday. Members of Durney’s nine-student class were saddened by the news, he said, and they felt a connection to the tragedy because the children of Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. are about their age.


“They were kind of like, ‘Oh, his kids are almost 10; we’re 10,’ ” Durney said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy also died in the wind-fanned blaze on Beacon Street.

As a way for the class to show support, Durney projected an image of the Boston Fire Department’s logo onto the classroom wall and had the fifth- and sixth-graders in his class trace it.

“We had an assembly line going,” Durney said. “We had one group outline the logo in pencil, another trace it in black marker, and the third group in color.”

Then the students taped the poster to the front of the school, so drivers could see it, he said.

The idea took off from there. Soon, Durney started getting requests for the signs, and people were willing to pay for them. The class banded together, making dozens of posters to sell for $5.

Eventually, the demand was more than the small class could handle, so they had to bring in reinforcements.


Now, 150 students from the school are packing into Durney’s classroom, working diligently to produce the drawings. They sprawl out on the floor, coloring, drawing, and talking while creating the posters, which are still being sold through the school.

“It’s like a big slumber party,” Durney said.

By 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the group had raised $660, Durney said.

“One student said to me, ‘When you are sad and do something positive, it makes you feel better,’ ” he said. “That touched me.”

Principal Edward Lee said he was happy the group had embarked on the project, even if it might take away from class time.

“Sometimes, there are bigger things in life,” Lee said. “And we learn greater lessons from them.”

Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at Follow her on twitter @jacktemp