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The story of the Luongo Fire of
MICHAEL A. LAURANO
In November of 1942, East Boston along with the rest of the world
was preoccupied with the bitter war in Europe. For a brief moment
that focus shifted when, on Sunday morning the 15th, the country
awoke to find a literal nightmare that would later be known as “The
Luongo Fire” had transpired the night before.
Photograph courtesy of Michael Laurano (All rights
Long afterwards that event still struck a responsive
chord in the collective memory of the East Boston community and far
beyond. A restaurant fire in which the side wall of a 100 year-old
building in Maverick Square fell, killing six firefighters.
That particular Sunday morning was —as an old-time East Boston
resident remembered in 1979 citing a newspaper piece on the subject
—“ A sad day for everyone.”
The Luongo Fire was a milestone event — that people
measure the times of their lives by— not unlike the assassination of
President Kennedy or September 11th. “I was just getting ready to go
into the service when that happened,” wrote another resident in
1979. It was an event that has always evoked somber tones and grave
expressions and among East Bostonians especially.
It is one thing to read of a disaster and another to
be within sight, sound and smell of its fury and to have known its
victims not only as names but as people.
The full story of the tragedy and the heroic firefighter bravery
that was “The Luongo Fire” now continues to live —and will continue
to as well it should —
thanks to the power of the Internet where it is told in full.
The only physical evidence of the horrific
conflagration that remains is the still missing attic of the
building next door on Henry Street adjoining the one-story building
now on the site.
For many years, the idea of placing of a tangible commemorative
memorial has been raised. For various reasons — political in nature
— such a memorial has never happened. Of those reasons one is that
neighborhood monuments are seen as unnecessary.
But yet East Boston still remembers that Sunday morning and the
Luongo Fire of November 15, 1942. We can remember. We do remember.
And we will.
-November 14, 2010.
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