Thursday, January 10, 4:17 p.m.
By Josh Brogadir
In step with the Robeson family and Scranton firefighters in the funeral procession were police officers, emergency responders and firefighters from dozens of other companies.
One fire company from Massachusetts said it's members decided to come to Scranton as soon as they heard about the tragedy as a way to repay a favor decades old.
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| More than 60 years ago the Scranton Fire Department presented the Brockton Fire Department with this monument in honor of 13 firefighters killed in the line of duty.
The pipers and drummers leading the procession to remember Captain James Robeson could never have walked to the streets of west Scranton. They came from more than 300 miles away, eight devoted firefighters from Brockton, Massachusetts.
They said they would never have missed this day.
"It was very important to come down and show support to the members of Scranton for what they've done for us, and what it's meant to us over the last 60 odd years," explained Peter Reardon of the Brockton Fire Department.
They brought with them a newspaper article commemorating a fateful day in 1941 when fire burned through the Strand Theatre in Brockton. Thirteen firefighters were killed trying to put out the flames.
Soon after a monument, sculpted from anthracite coal and engraved with the names of the 13, was commissioned as a gift for Brockton by the Scranton Fire Department.
"It's a beautiful piece of coal, anthracite coal. It's polished. It has the names inscribed on it," said Lieutenant Donald Bissett of the Brockton Fire Department.
"We still have it today. It's in city hall and we use it every year at our annual memorial. It stands right in front of the mayor's office and all the members of the local come out to observe that anniversary, and that's where we have the ceremony," said Brockton firefighter William Hill.
In a sad touch of reverence, Brockton has been waiting more than 65 years to return the favor. When they heard about Captain Robeson's tragic death they knew at once they were coming to Scranton.
How the monument made its way to Brockton from northeastern Pennsylvania is another story, relayed over the years to firefighters today.
"We had one of the firefighters that was on his honeymoon in the area stop down, got the memorial, put it in his trunk, and drove it back to Brockton," Lieutenant Bissett explained with a laugh.
The Brockton firefighters said they never actually hoped to have come here for something like this. They had planned to invite the Scranton department to Massachusetts this coming May for the dedication of a permanent firefighters memorial to the victims of the Strand Theatre fire.