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Boston Fire

1976 Pulitzer Prize, Spot News Photography, Stanley J. Forman, Boston Herald American


It's quitting time on a brutally hot day in July when Boston Herald American photographer Stanley Forman hears a report of a fire in Boston’s Back Bay. He follows screaming fire trucks to a six-story apartment house in flames.


Forman remembers "a roaring, roaring inferno... heavy smoke. Heavy fire. It was like a firestorm."


Forman runs to the back of the building. "Then I spotted them. A woman, a child and they re standing there on the fire escape, 10 feet from the fire itself. And they're looking for help." As Forman watches, a firefighter climbs down from the roof. He pulls them away from the flames, shielding them with his heavy rubber coat. Seeking a better vantage point, Forman climbs onto a ladder truck.


"Everything was fine," says Forman. "I was just shooting a routine rescue. Switching lenses, switching cameras." A ladder rises slowly toward the fire escape. The firefighter reaches out to grab the ladder....


"All of a sudden, boom! It just crashes." As Forman watches, the fire escape rips away from the building. The woman is falling, the child is falling, metal is flying...


"Everything is falling and I'm thinking. Just keep shooting.' And I'm shooting and shooting. Then a bell went off in my head. I didn’t want to see them hit." Forman turns away. When he turns back, he discovers the 19-year-old woman is dead. Her 3-year-old niece miraculous survives.

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Taken on August 13, 2010