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Despite grief, crews get back to work

As workers collected empty water bottles and firefighters boarded MBTA buses less than 30 minutes after the conclusion of Warren J. Payne's funeral yesterday, the Boston Fire Department's Engine 24 raced by the church on Seaver Street, lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Everyone turned to look at the firefighters in the truck, wearing their black and yellow coats and responding to a call, which took them along the route that Payne's funeral procession had followed to Forest Hills Cemetery.

"That's tough," said Arthur Weeks, 61, of Dorchester, a few moments after the truck had passed. "That's where you've got to take your hat off to them."

Thousands of firefighters, who paid their respects to Payne and Paul J. Cahill this week, prepared yesterday to take part in another longstanding firefighters' tradition - getting right back to work, even after burying two of their own.

"You have to keep going," said Scott Salman, a Boston firefighter. "You grieve and mourn, but the job has to go on. We still have to protect the city, citizens, and property."

Still, the collective toll of attending firefighter funerals can add up, said Robert Ostrofsky, 40, of the New York Fire Department, adding that many of his colleagues were scheduled to work last night.

"You get angry almost," said Ostrofsky, whose firehouse lost 11 men on Sept. 11, 2001, plus another firefighter who jumped on one of their trucks that day.

"I've been doing this for nine years, and I guess you think it will be a little while before the next one, and then it's not a little while," he said.

Ostrofsky, who helped clear the Deutsche Bank building near ground zero the day after two New York firefighters died there last month, said it is impossible to completely block out thoughts about the dangers of the job.

"It's always easy to stop and think that could have been me," he said.

"You try not to think about it, but you can't help it."

Ryan Haggerty can be reached at

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