Firefighters are often first on the scene of a disaster and last to leave. We risk our safety to keep residents of the city safe. On this eighth anniversary of 9/11, we remember the 343 firefighters lost in that tragedy and recognize Boston firefighters, past and present, and the contributions they’ve made to the community.
My father was one of those firefighters who saw his role as much more than just a firefighter. Lt. Bob Kilduff was a 39-year member of the Boston Fire Department, joining the ranks of the department at the age of 22.
Within his first few years on the job, he was credited for several rescues. At age 24 he entered a burning apartment complex and rescued two unconscious males. A year later my dad scaled a ladder and entered a second-floor window of a burning building to search for a trapped child. Without the aid of breathing apparatus, he located the unconscious child and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as he felt his way out of the building.
Many would describe these actions as heroic, but my dad would tell you that he was just doing his job, and any other firefighter would have done the same. He would also tell you that firefighters are easily credited for work they do and the rescues they make. However, we should also be recognized for the work we are prepared to do. Certainly, none of us hope to die. But we took an oath that, given the choice between a civilian life and our own, we will do everything in our power to see that civilian to safety.
In 2002, my dad’s own life took a tragic turn, when at the age of 55 he was diagnosed with what was considered to be occupational lung cancer. He used the rest of his time here to educate his peers about the importance and need for yearly cancer screenings. It also motivated him to give something back to the community he had served for so many years.
I’m proud that my dad founded the Boston Firefighters Children’s Fund. He had spent too many holidays watching children burned out of their homes during the holidays. The Boston Firefighters Children’s Fund mission was simple: to replace kids’ Christmas presents that were lost or damaged by a fire.
My dad lost his battle with cancer at age 60. He could easily be regarded as a highly decorated and respected veteran fire lieutenant. However, that is not what he would ever have told you. He would simply have shrugged his shoulders and said, “I was just doing my job.”
Lt. Bob Kilduff was just one of many Boston firefighters who continually give back to the community. You can find us across Boston serving as youth sports coaches and volunteering for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. We’ve opened up Florian Hall thousands of times for fund-raisers, school benefits and community organizations. Boston firefighters are not just your firefighters; we’re your neighbors.
Robert Kilduff, Jr.
The writer is assigned to Rescue Company 2 on Columbus Avenue in Roxbury. An eight-year veteran of the Boston Fire Department, Kilduff is also a steward for Boston Firefighters Local 718. He lives in West Roxbury with his wife and two children.