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A Unifying Memorial to Bravery and Brotherhood

By Paul Simon, RLA, Gala Simon Associates, Inc.

Six firefighters died in the Worcester cold storage warehouse fire, which has been called the third-worst fire in Massachusetts history. The firefighters were all searching for each other when they died, and Simon said the converging lights will symbolize them finding each other.

The winning design for the Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial was driven by the inspiration of six brave men: Paul Brotherton, Tim Jackson, Jerry Lucey, Jay Lyons, Joe McGuirk and Lt. Tom Spencer. The memorial represents the intentions of these firefighters to find each other during a tragic fire on the night of December 3, 1999. The memorial is meant to represent the bravery, fellowship, brotherhood and heroism of these men and of all fire fighters.

The primary memorial is defined by six vertical elements honoring each of the Worcester Fire Fighters who sacrificed their lives in the heroic rescue effort. Alone, the vertical elements stand tall and bold to honor each fire fighter individually. The fire fighters intentions were to find each other in the building and the structures lean inward as if reaching, symbolically, for needed support to accomplish this purpose.

The structures all lean inward to symbolize the firefighters intent to find each other. The split-face limestone vertical wall that is to be the memorial to those firefighters who have fallen since December 3, 1999 also leans inward along the curved vehicular/pedestrian path. The wall will be capped with sandblasted, honed limestone.

Though never physically joining, at night the lines of the elements are extended through rays of projected focused light. The leaning columns of light join at a single point in the sky and are symbolic of the fire fighters' ultimate unity. Together, supporting one-another, the singular elements become the "Primary Memorial." The faces of each monument will contain educational information, engraved names of each fire fighter, and a written personal memoir by family and friends.

Gala Simon Associates design was announced as the winner at a press conference Sept. 27, 2004 in Worcester Mass. It was one of 158 initial submissions in a National Design Competition and chosen from five finalists following a second-stage review. The team at Gala Simon Associates, Inc. (GSA) was challenged to design a significant memorial to these six brave men. The first and second stage competition direction and conditions, developed by the Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial (WFFM) Committee provided GSA with the framework to develop additional design components leading to the final design for the nine-acre memorial park.

As a means of transporting the current Franklin Street Memorial, the dedication of which was attended by President Bill Clinton, a channel of remnant stone from the warehouse building will be ceremoniously placed by the surviving families, friends and those who fought the fire.

A special walkway connects visitors to the Primary Memorial via a "Fire Timeline." Here, graphic and written images educate visitors about the series of events during (and after) the cold storage warehouse fire, starting with the call of the first alarm on the night of Dec. 3, 1999.

Interviewed at the time of the fire, Chief McNamee of the Worcester Fire Department said, "This building kept all its secrets to itself." As he was arriving, he asked headquarters for information on the building. The call came back that there wasn't any. The men fighting the fire did not have a floor plan showing exits. They did not know that the walls of the former giant meat locker were coated with highly flammable petroleum-based products nor that there was six inches of cork insulation impregnated with a highly flammable material. They did not even know the number of floors. "Without windows there was no way to count," Chief McNamee said. They also did not know that a second stairwell at the rear of the building extended only to the third floor and was useless to men trapped two floors above.

The columns will be 42 feet high, constructed of concrete with rebar inside and a honed limestone veneer. The construction alone, once begun, should take about one year.

Another component of the design includes an "Acknowledgement Wall" where the engraved names of those who aided in the rescue effort will be displayed. A second acknowledgement wall will be dedicated to those who may have perished in the line of duty following Dec. 3, l999. The wall is similar in form and material to the Primary Memorial. It lines the pedestrian/vehicular path leading to and encompassing the main memorial. Existing features including the stone memorial for those who have perished in the line of duty and the playing field with dedication stone will be preserved and integrated with the other acknowledgement spaces.

Connecting the Memorial Park to the surrounding area are three gateways: a main entryway and drop-off including a parking area, a tree-lined pedestrian pathway and entry along Grove Street, and a vehicular/pedestrian access way at the furthest point of the site. Also proposed is a fourth gateway, a pedestrian bridge crossing Salisbury Pond and linking the Memorial Park to Institute Park. Additional elements of the nine-acre park design include ADA accessibility requirements, retaining and freestanding wall designs, lighting, landscaping, site furnishings and maintenance efficiency.

Andy Rojas, a Boston-based landscape architect and chairman of the memorial's jury committee, said of GSA's project, "Their primary memorial, the six columns, was definitely the most powerful of the ones presented, and the firefighters in particular on the jury were extremely touched by it."

The Memorial Park will serve as a prominent feature in the area; the elevation and location allow visibility from many locations surrounding the park. The "Primary Memorial" will provide a lasting impression to all visitors and reinforce the strong sense of community and pride embodied by the people of Worcester.

The Gala Simon Associates, Inc. (GSA)

It is the inspiration of six brave heroes that directed the GSA team to develop a structural form symbolic of the strength and unity of all fire fighters. From left: Alberto Gala, Civil Engineer, Cristobal Arria, Architectural Designer, Colleen Simon, Interior Designer, Paul Simon, Landscape Architect - Project Manager

Memorial Team was led by Paul Simon, Principal, R.L.A. Mr. Simon has provided project management services for various firms in Massachusetts, Florida, and Kentucky. His extensive knowledge includes full site architectural services from schematic design and permitting to construction documents, grading and drainage, graphic presentations, site detailing, specifications, cost estimating, bidding, and construction administration. In addition, he has expertise in landscape design, irrigation design, lighting design, hardscape design, specialty detailing, educational & interactive park design, community gardens, playground design, resort design, subdivision development, and athletic & recreational facility development. Mr. Simon holds a B.S. degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Kentucky. Other team members include Alberto Gala P.E., Principal (Civil Engineer), Colleen Simon, and Cristobal Arria. For additional images of the Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial and information on Gala Simon Associates, Inc. please visit

The outstanding efforts of the Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial Committee have ultimately guided the Gala Simon Associates team and this final design.

The Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial Committee is actively pursuing a fund-raising campaign to construct the $3-million to $5-million tribute to Worcester's six fallen heroes. Donations are appreciated and accepted with gratitude.

Donations can be made to:

Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial
34 Glennie Street
Worcester, MA 01605

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December 6, 2019, 12:39 pm PDT

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