Governor Charlie Baker presents Red Cross award to disaster responders
by Ethan Forman, Eagle Tribune
Gov. Charlie Baker choked up Thursday morning as he talked about the response to the series of gas explosions and fires across three Merrimack Valley communities on the evening of Sept. 13, 2018.
Baker — who has been hands-on in the state’s response to the gas disaster — was at the Red Cross’ annual Heroes breakfast at the DoubleTree hotel in Danvers to present the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Award to local officials, police officers, firefighters, state lawmakers and Red Cross volunteers from Lawrence, Andover, North Andover and the greater Merrimack Valley who responded in the aftermath of the explosions.
“I’ve got to tell you that watching that video was actually not easy,” Baker said after a presentation that featured Red Cross volunteers and officials recounting how they came to the aid of thousands of people who were displaced in the sudden disaster that hit all three communities at once.
Baker paused and said, “When you are in the middle of it, you don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about how you feel about it. You just do stuff. I have to say that was actually hard for me to watch.”
One thing that impressed the governor the most was how so many police and fire departments from across Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire “just dropped whatever they were doing and came to the Showcase Cinema parking lot in Lawrence.”
He said the Lawrence, Andover and North Andover departments, working with state police and other organizations, did an unbelievable job, logistically, figuring out where to go and what to do. Time was critical. By midnight, the power had been shut down, and street and traffic lights were out.
Accepting the award for firefighters was Lawrence fire Chief Brian Moriarty, Andover fire Chief Michael Mansfield and North Andover deputy fire Chief Graham Rowe, on behalf of North Andover fire Chief William McCarthy and North Andover Emergency Manager Jeffrey Coco.
For police, it was Andover Chief Patrick Keefe, Lawrence Chief Roy Vasque and North Andover Chief Charles Gray.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, Andover Selectman Alexander Vispoli, and North Andover Selectman Regina Kean also accepted the award on behalf of officials from the three communities.
Lawmakers recognized with the award were state Sen. Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover; Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester; former state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport; state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen; state Rep. Juana Matias, D-Lawrence; state Rep. Frank Moran, D-Lawrence; and former state Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover.
Lawrence General Hospital was also honored for its efforts.