Lost and Found
It has been more than four years since Providence firefighter Michael Day died in the line of duty. So why is his widow still waiting for memorial pins that she helped pay for, to be distributed to her husband's colleagues? This week Jim Hummel finds out the wait is almost over.
Providence Firefighter Mike Day was the first in 30 years to die in the line of duty.
In June of 2006 Day suffered a fatal heart attack in his office at headquarters just hours after returning from a fire.
``He loved his job. He loved it. He lived for it. Every day he loved going to work.
Cindy Day, his wife of 23 years and mother of their four children, says a colleague who worked with her husband for years on Engine 10 at the Broad Street station asked if she wanted to help design a memorial pin to commemorate his 27 years on the department.
Cindy Day says the chief at the time, David Costa, told her the department would pick up the cost of the pins. With the help of her kids, this is the design they came up with - AC for assistant chief and 1003, Day's employee number.
Day: ``The fire department was going to pay for them, but I was there with the design, we ordered them and I paid the down payment, which was half the price of the pins.''
A thousand pins at a cost of $3,200. Cindy Day put up $1,600.
They were ready in the summer of 2007, about a year after Mike Day died, just as George Farrell succeeded Costa as chief. An assistant chief who has since retired picked the pins up....and Cindy Day's wait began.
Day: ``I assumed once they got to the department something would be done and they would call me and say, we'd like to distribute the pins, would you like some?''
Months went by and when Cindy Day asked again - she was told the department needed to determine the protocol for where they would be worn on the firefighters' uniforms.
Day: ``I understood when I was told we have to look and see where they have to be placed; a month, two months at the top. After awhile I was completely baffled, there's no reason for this. Three and a half years have gone by and I still have not seen the pins.''
Hummel: ``Do you find it disrespectful to Mike?''
Day: ``Yes. Very disrespectful to him, and his memory and the rest of the firefighters on the job.''
Hummel: ``This fall, after some firefighters again asked her about the pins, Cindy Day finally decided the only way to get the chief's attention was here - in Providence Superior Court.''
Last month - she filed a lawsuit demanding the chief return the pins to her. But Chief Farrell, who was not available for an on camera interview, told the Hummel Report in a statement he had nothing to do with the pins and referred to uniform protocol.
``While I appreciate Mrs. Day's desire to further commemorate her husband's service, Department policy is clear on what types of commendation awards or pins are allowed on formal dress uniforms.''
Doughty: ``To hold them up and really create the pretext it's some high-level, deep administrative decision that we have to make is disingenuous at best.''
Union President Paul Doughty said since Day's death the department has issued two special pins, including one for those who fought the Motiva fire at the Port of Providence.
Doughty: ``I don't believe the protocol had anything to do with this. There's some bad blood between Chief Farrell and Mike's brother, Stephen day, and I think unfortunately that carried over into this decision.''
The union's long running contract dispute with the city has been bitter and public - and Doughty has had tough words for Chief Farrell.
Hummel: `What about those who would look at you doing this interview and say this is just another way for the union to stick it to the administration and to pile on. What would you say to those critics?''
Day: ``I'd say they may be able to put that out here. My defense would be, Mike day wasn't in the union. In this case, Mike wasn't a union members and the union didn't pay for it. We really don't have a dog in the fight except to say the medals should have gone out. Three years is much too long.''
Just as Cindy Day's lawsuit was heading to court earlier this month - the pins showed up - the chief says they were buried in a filing cabinet at headquarters under some radios. He admitted the lawsuit got his attention.
Hummel: ``And when you heard that, what was your reaction?''
Day: ``It's about time.''
Hummel: ``Did you ever think you'd be filing a lawsuit against the department?
Day: ``No. Over pins.''
Hummel: ``Over anything?''
It turns out the department could only find 700 of the 1000 made. The union's lawyer says he'll file a claim with the city for the other 300.
Cindy Day says she now is focusing on getting them to the firefighters.
Day: ``I want to see them distributed in Mike's memory and I would love to see them on the jackets of those firefighters. And I'd like to have one myself...
In Providence, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.