The several hundred Connecticut firefighters who have, through the decades, given their lives so that the people of the state might live past the threat of danger and fire, are remembered at this handsome memorial in a wooded and surprisingly peaceful spot on the backside of Bradley Airport probably only a ten-minute drive from the passenger terminal. Visitors will easily find the memorial to "line-of-duty deaths" (abbreviated as "LODD" in fire-ese) on the airport's Perimeter Road about a quarter-mile before the entrance to the New England Aviation Museum, which is another attraction in Windsor Locks adjacent to Bradley Airport, New England's second-busiest airport after Boston's Logan Airport.
The Fallen Firefighters Memorial is part of Connecticut's compact firefighting training and education center. There's a fire tower and fire drill location, a handsome building housing fire offices, a well-stocked gift store (children who like firefighters -- or their parents -- will enjoy the temptation of many attractive children's items in the gift store!) and the Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Just down the road, the blue vertical form of the Bradley Airport control tower overlooks the fire education complex; yes, it's THAT close to the airport.
But it's not noisy like an airport, and certainly not noisy at all in the wooded grove surround the Fallen Firefighters Memorial. The names of several hundred people -- mostly men -- who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect Nutmeggers from death and injury in fires are chiseled into about two dozen stone panels arranged at the base of a dark marble sign with the name of the memorial and a portrait etched of firefighters at work.
The stone panels are surrounded by eight black polished granite benches, each labeled for one of the state's eight counties. Names of fallen firefighters on the panels are arranged completely randomly. They are not alphabetized by name of the fallen firefighter nor are they alphabetized by the town or city served by the fallen firefighter. They are not arranged chronologically, either. The point is to force visitors to view many, many names from all over the Constitution State -- in large cities and small towns -- before finding a name or several names from the town or city that most interests the visitor. This heightens the appreciation for all firefighters in the state, if not beyond.
To the side, a girder from the World Trade Center twin towers, destroyed in New York during the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001, stands vertically in its own garden. Many Connecticut residents died in the World Trade Center; the southwest part of Connecticut in Fairfield County has many close economic and social ties to New York City. A little further away, an old-fashioned fire call box made by a Newton, Massachusetts, company stands on a post in pristine condition, seemingly ready to sound the fire alarm if a passer-by pulls the handle.
The memorial is well-maintained and even on a hot summer day, the flowers were tended and in full bloom. The memorial suffers from a lack of interpretive signage for the World Trade Center girder -- admittedly, a recent addition -- a lack of information about the fires in which the line-of-duty deaths occurred and a lack of a printed index to the randomized names, though an index is available online for the visitor with a smartphone or tablet. Nor is there a plaque with any history of the call box or explaining the design of the fire education training center, clearly trimmed to resemble the lines of a classic firehouse. These are small points; they will not mar your visit.
A firefighter or any public servant, a troubled soul, a parent interested in instilling a message about public service into a child's frame of reference, or a harried person with a few minutes to spare before parking at Bradley before boarding a flight could all benefit from a few minutes of peace, wooded fresh air, thoughts about the nature of public service and firefighters, and prayer on the benches and in the garden plazas of the Connecticut Fallen Firefighters Memorial. A few more minutes in the gift shop might produce a cherished gift to keep or give to a loved one.
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