The sorrow of bagpipes echoed through Watertown for the second time in three years. On Wednesday, thousands of firefighters gathered to pay their final respects to fallen firefighter Joseph Toscano.
Tosacno’s funeral was held at St. Patrick’s Church at 11 a.m. Firefighters from across the state, and as far away as California, lined Main Street in Watertown Square to salute Toscano as his casket was brought to the church atop a Watertown Fire Engine. Toscano died suffering a medical emergency while battling a two alarm-blaze at 29 Merrifield Ave. Friday.
For the thousands of firefighters who made their way into Watertown, attending Toscano’s funeral wasn’t just an opportunity to salute a fallen hero, but an obligation to a brotherhood they said united them.
“It’s an honor, it’s a complete honor,” Jim Huth, firefighter and paramedic for the Mendon Fire Department, said. “It’s just something people don’t understand. Honor and tradition, you’re serving your community and you work with these people side by side. These people become your family.”
Swampscott Fire Captain Kevin Thompson said that the firefighter community is “close knit” because “it has to be.”
“You go into a very dangerous situation and you’ve got to know the guy behind you and the woman to your left is going to be there for you and you’re going to be there for them,” Thompson said. “That’s the reason you take chances knowing that other people are going to take the chance for you.”
Boston Firefighter Paul Vinard said that being a member of the brotherhood is “one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in.”
“I’ve been through the military, I’ve been through a bunch of other stuff, all kinds of sporting teams,” Vinard said. “But this far outweighs everything.”
“I’m proud to be a part of all of this community,” Vinard said. “It’s really indescribable, it truly is.”
Vinard said he knew both Lt. Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy who died with fighting a massive nine-alarm fire in Back Bay on March 26, 2014. Walsh, a Watertown native, also had funeral services at St. Patrick’s Church.
While attending a firefighter’s, funeral is “part of the job you don’t really want to talk about until it’s happened,” Vinard said.
Bruce Brown, A former firefighter for the Orange County Fire Department in California, said he was in Boston to spend St. Patrick’s Day with a friend from the Boston Fire Department. He said he extended his stay a few days after Toscano died so that he could attend the funeral.
“We do it for the families and for our brothers,” Brown said. “It’s just an honor to be here to support the families.”
Cambridge Fire Captain David House said that it’s comforting to see the firefighter community respond in solidarity to the death of one of its own.
“Hopefully this will never be me,” Cambridge Fire Captain David House, said. “But if it is it’s nice to know that guys would be out for mine just the way I’m out for theirs.”