It was the height of the sixties, when racial tensions were taught in the City of Boston and across the United States. A white fireman was caught by a photographer, his lips pressed to the face of a black baby girl, his face racked with determination to save her life.
This week, more than forty years later, that baby and her grateful godmother finally met the man who saved her.
“November, 1968, a report of children trapped inside the building,” William Carroll says into the camera. “Those things you remember like it was yesterday.”
The baby was covered in soot, Carroll remembers, unable to breathe with no pulse pumping in her tiny wrist. He’d crawled on his stomach through the thick smoke to find her lyin in a crib in the burning Roxbury Housing Projects, clad only in a diaper. He grabbed Evangeline Harper – now Evangeline Anderson – and rushed from the building. The picture snapped by a photojournalist on scene would shape the future of the city, and he would earn commendations for bravery.
But Caroll wasn’t thinking about any of that. He had a child to save.
Forty years later, Anderson met up with a Boston Globe reporter at a community meeting. She saw an opportunity to track down the man who’d saved her – through the newspaper that made famous her picture. Caught on tape by the Globe as a companion piece to their article, the meeting is worth watching (here) for one of those “restores your faith in the good of man” moments.
First delving into it, I thought the race issue would have the bigger pull – making me all weepy to see racial tensions melting away. Instead, all this brought out in me was the mother side, the part that wanted to wrap my arms around a guy who saved a baby. As Anderson tells him – “had it not been for you, I would not be here today.”
“We did a good thing that day,” Carroll said, “I hope I gave her a shot.”
Awww. Maybe every day should be hug a fireman day?
Image: Boston Globe