On December 2, 1999, a vacant warehouse caught fire in Worcester, Mass. As many as 40 firefighters tried to put out the blaze. Some entered the building, trying to rescue a homeless couple believed to be inside. But firefighters searched for them in vain.
First two firemen, then two more became lost in the smoky haze. Heavy black smoke, fueled by the petroleum lining of the cold storage lockers, poured from the lockers and into the stairway; it was impossible to see.
District Chief Mike McNamee made a tough call: He ordered everyone out. But when it was all over, the fire had claimed six of Worcester's bravest.
More than 12 hours passed before the conflageration was finally controlled. Then the nation mourned the fallen heroes at a ceremony attended by firefighters from across the country.
In the weeks following the blaze, the building that had taken such a terrible toll on the city finally surrendered to a demolition crew, and the remnants of the old Cold Storage Warehouse were torn down and cleared away.
Now, almost a year and a half later, the lot is vacant, with just a thin layer of gravel to mark the outline of where the six-story warehouse once stood. A fence now surrounds the site, and there's a kind of make-shift memorial: tributes, reminders, personal expressions of people touched by this tragedy. Worcester will never forget.
Aired: 2 Nov 2000