PHOTOS: Fred Sullivan stood in complete darkness on the fourth floor of the Hotel Vendome, a rookie Boston firefighter waiting for orders as the remnants of a four-alarm fire were being extinguished at the once-elegant building on Commonwealth Avenue and Dartmouth Street.
It was the afternoon of June 17, 1972, and Sullivan could hear his experienced colleagues about 25 yards away, talking among themselves, some leaning against a wall. Suddenly, the floor under them collapsed, and they plummeted amid a crush of falling debris.
“They had the fire knocked down,” recalled Sullivan, who retired in 2009 as a district fire chief. “They had only a little bit of work to do.”
The nine firefighters who died at the Hotel Vendome a half-century ago Friday remain the largest loss of life in the history of the Boston Fire Department. For the families of the deceased, for former firefighters who knew the fallen, and for new recruits who are shown the site, their sacrifice endures.