Beware the Ides of March
March 10, 2009, 11:07
Filed under: History, roots of Willohroots


“(3/15/2008) Fifteen years ago this date, two local firefighters lost their lives battling a fire in Pittston City. Today, the community took time to remember our fallen comrades by attending a special Mass before proceeding to the former Water Street Bridge in Pittston City. The bridge would be the focus of events, as it was officially renamed the “Firefighters Memorial Bridge” in honor of John Lombardo and Leonard Insalaco who lost their lives on that fateful day.

Many area departments, including Station 112 participated in the events today. It was our special way of honoring all those who came before us and made the supreme sacrifice.”

“May they never be forgotten”

Photo and quote above from Avoca Fire Dept’s, great site                   http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.avocafire.net/img/incidents/P015.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.avocafire.net/inciden

Another anniversary coming up.  It really doesn’t seem so long ago.  As I remember the call came in late in the evening during a serious snow storm.   Multiple alarm fire Main St. Pittston.  My rural company, where I  served as Chief was not called, but at the time I was a member of West Pittston Hose Co. No.1 , a volunteer outfit in the neighboring town.  I knew I would have a delayed response, but I thought I might be of some help on the ladder truck.  I did not run my red light and siren while responding and would not have needed to, as the streets were deserted.

Route 92 pointed right at the fire, and I could see the smoke “pushing” from the building before I crossed the bridge into Pittston City.  As soon as I got parked, Frankie Roman,  City Chief  at the time, told me to shut the gas main off in the rear of the building and to look for two firemen making their way out the back.  Len Insalaco and John Lombardo had gone in the front on Main St,  and the floor had collapsed.  Frankie asked me to vent the roof ASAP.   I never got off the aerial ladder onto the roof.  The rubber roof of the hundred year old building was bubbling,  and there was no way I would put myself or anyone else on it.  We were helpless.  We went into “surround and drown” mode.   Lenny and John were gone.

There were two signs of love on the rise of the next day.  One was Scranton City firemen. Without being called,  on their own time,  a crew came down to recover the bodies of our brothers.  The other was the sign of the cross.  On the neighboring building, a cross of ice had formed thirty feet high, dead center over the scene.  There was probably some scientific explanation for this, maybe,  but those of us who believed saw the cross in our time of loss.  Scientific explanation or not,  thank you Jesus. 

I did not know John well,  I still miss Lenny.  Our talks covered the full range of firehouse conversation: fires, women, cars,  God.  I speak about God with more purpose and urgency these days.  You never know which conversation will be your last.

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 

10 Comments so far
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We have a volunteer Fire Dept here. Our home backs up to an old airfield that houses businesses of the noisy, muddy, greasy type. Three summers ago one of those businesses less than a football field away from our home burned. It was bad, very bad, because they had old welding gas bottles all over the place and they were exploding, and because it was so hot, dry, and windy. I was home at the time with a child and six animals and no way to get any of them out, so I watched and tried to get ready to run, if we had to.

Those guys were amazing. Not once did that fire get out of their control, and it never got anywhere near any of the homes that were much too close for comfort. At one point I looked over to see my 10-year-old step-daughter crying and told her it would be okay, but she said she wasn’t scared. She was crying because it was so hot and those guys were working in it to save our stuff. I let her bake cookies for them, and we delivered them with cold lemonade that evening. It wasn’t enough, but we wanted to do something to say thank you.

I can understand why God would send that cross to comfort your hearts. I’m sure you have a special place in His.

Comment by Shawn W

I’m very sorry for the loss of your comrades and friends.

One day you guys will be back playing hearts, or whatever firemen play, ‘upstairs’ where nobody loses.

Comment by theoldadam

Is that Pittston PA?

My Mom was from there before she and her family moved to Calif.

Comment by theoldadam

We play pitch, 6 card steal the low and the Jack.
The older firemen play pinnocle. My dad got punched over 50 years ago for leaving a game to go to a fire, they were serious games!
Yes, Pittston Pa. The rusted buckle of the coal belt. Come on back, and buy a used Catholic church, we have a bunch for sale!
Pittston was a common stop over for immigration, a melting pot of many nationalities. Quite a place in it’s hay day.
Don’t tell me I’m related to you, that would be way too much!

Comment by willohroots

My Mom was from a large Italian family, the Shandra’s. Her Mom’s maiden name was Montagna (maybe Montangna).

Her Dad and older brothers were coal miners.

I remember going to Pittston when I was 10 years old. I remember how beautiful and green the mountains were.

That’s about all I remember about Pittston.

My Mom had a cousin who was a star football player (from Pittston also, I believe…Charlie Trippi)

Maybe we are related…that would really be a hoot!

Comment by theoldadam

PS- Most of my Mom’s family are deceased…so if any of them owed you money…I can’t help you!

Comment by theoldadam

I have watched a few football games in Charley Trippi Stadium,Pittston Area, and recently did a Relay for life there. Shandra is a respected family name in Pittston today, some fine folk.

Comment by willohroots

Thanks for that, Willohroots!

My family will be glad to hear that!

Small world, isn’t it?

Comment by theoldadam

I am really touched by your story and love the fact that a cross appeared there. Our God is mighty and gracious and ever present in our times of need.

Comment by jeofurry

Amen Jeff, I have learned to look for the ram in the bush, the pillars of smoke and fire, the manna on the ground, and the rainbow of promise. I love our God.

Comment by willohroots

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