Saturday, June 09, 2007

To Have And To Hold

The re-development of the old Winecoff Hotel necessitated the removal of some of the original bricks from the 1913 structure. Always alert, Atlanta Fire Department Captain Bill May managed to recover a few of them before they were removed from the re-construction site. He made sure one of them went to a very special person. Here is that man's thank you note to Captain May:

Captain Bill May,
Thank you for sharing a brick from the Winecoff Hotel. The Winecoff fire is that moment in history that totally turned my life. It was a powerful moment to hold a memento from the structure. I appreciate the effort you and Allen have given to make this happen.

In 1946 I was a three year old child and was staying with my parents in the Winecoff the night it burned. My parents did not survive but I was able to land on a fire net as I fell with my dad. An Atlanta fireman, Rick Roberts was one of the men holding the net. I have met and visited with Mr. Roberts a couple of times and it has been a rich experience. We were on the 10th floor and I understand that height meets or exceeds the fall distance that is compatible with survival.

I have no memory of the fire but have gathered many, many stories over the years. In the past few years even more details have come to light. We have photos, videos, the "Winecoff Fire" book, personal conversation and visits to the site. A brick from the structure is a tangible object. It is a powerful visual of a moment in history.

I have recently started to relate the story of the Winecoff to various groups in Kansas, including fire protection engineers and civic groups. It is amazing that people so far from Atlanta are so interested in an event that happened so long ago. The brick is a powerful image for the audience. Thank you again for this piece of history.

Please feel free to share this note and my appreciation with the Atlanta Fire Department.

Sincerely yours,
Robert Cox, M.D.

Captain Bill May is the host of Firefighter 411.

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