In the dark midnight hours of November 14, 1987, well after everyone else in the twenty-story Boston skyscraper went home for the night, two lone repairmen were performing routine maintenance operations in a narrow, 20-by-20 utility shaft that ran up the entire length of the building. Pulleying themselves up and down on a motorized window-washer-style plank led by two guy wires, the techs went about their graveyard shift, working hard in a cramped space while suspended nearly eight stories above the floor of the shaft, their feet dangling towards the treacherous blackness below.
Then, suddenly, a spark lit the darkness. The motorized hum of the repair cart came to an abrupt stop, leaving only silence. The techs, now stuck dangerously suspended nearly 100 feet from the ground, immediately slammed the emergency button.
Less than an hour later, a crowbar jammed between the doors of the access shaft a few stories above the repair techs’ heads. Through the door emerged Boston Firefighter Eddie Loder of Rescue One, geared up with full rappelling equipment and ready for action. Without hesitation, this hardcore firefighter vet clipped in and dropped down the repair shaft, cracking a joke to the scared-shitless repair techs as he calmly lowered himself down a narrow, wire-filled, poorly-lit treacherous utility shaft ten stories off the ground in an attempt to save the lives of two complete strangers he’d just met five seconds ago.
If anyone ever seriously told me that they thought firefighters were overrated I would straight up punch them in the throat. These guys are some of the bravest, most hardcore men and women on earth, and that’s not even a statement of opinion, it’s a fucking fact. Firefighters and other first responders are the very definition of the word “hero” – they literally put their life at risk every time they clock in for work, and they do it not for personal or individual glory, but to help others in need and to save lives. It’s insane to even think about. These folks witness all kinds of horrible shit – people burned to a crisp, cut in half, falling to their deaths – and they even watch their own friends and coworkers die in the line of duty, yet they get out there and fucking do it anyways. Breathing in lung-crushing amounts of smoke and running face-first into fireballs isn’t just over-the-top hardcore, it’s these guys’ job description.
So when you’re talking about Edward Loder, a 40-year vet of the prestigious Boston Fire Department and a man believed to be the most decorated man in the DEPAHTMENT’s history, you know you’re talking about a badass.
Loder (whose name I assume is pronounced LODAH), joined the Boston Fire Department way back in 1970. Over the first decade or so of his career, this hardcore grizzled fireman gained a reputation for being tough as hell, and before long he was assigned to Rescue One – a special detachment designed to, you guessed it, rescue people from all manner of life-threatening situations ranging from potential suicides jumping off roofs to people trapped in wells and shit. Basically, any time someone was dangling over a bottomless pit, Ed Loder was the man called to pull them to safety.
His first Roll of Merit citation came for the utility shaft rescue in 1987, when Loder and another firefighter rappelled down two stories inside a cramped utility shaft to rescue two guys who’d been stuck when their motorized pulley thing shorted out. Loder rappelled down, latched the worker on to him, then, deciding it too dangerous to go back up, he rappelled down two more stories with another man strapped to him. The strength required for this seems mind-boggling, but both utility techs walked away unharmed and Ed Loder made a name for himself as a dude who would get crazy shit done to save fucking lives.
Two stories stand out in Loder’s career, which is saying something when your job is basically to save the lives of people who are in imminently fatal positions. The first was a dramatic, high-profile, death-defying rescue that took place in May of 1990 on the roof of the goddamn Ritz Carlton hotel on Boston’s super-high-end Newbury Street. A twentysomething woman with severe mental illness had gone into an intense depression, locked herself in her sixteenth-floor hotel room, and was pacing back and forth on the balcony threatening to hurl herself off the parapet to her death. Firefighters tried to get in through the door of the hotel room, but she screamed she would jump if they opened it. They tried to set up one of those big bounce house bags that catch you when you leap, but she thwarted that as well.
The only place she didn’t check for firefighters was above her.
Because who the fuck would expect to be death-from-aboved by a 40-year-old fireman leaping from the roof of the building like John Fucking McClane, swinging over like Luke Skywalker Tarzanning across the Death Star ventilation shaft, and tackling her away from the ledge just at the moment she was about to jump?
welcome to the party pal.
That’s right – using his ingenuity, suicide-negotiation genius, and gigantic fire-resistant balls, Eddie Loder climbed to the roof of the friggin’ Ritz Carlton, strapped himself in, threw himself off the roof attached only by a guideline, swung down, and kicked this would-be suicide away from her impending doom as a crowd of mind-fucking-blown-away bystanders looked on from the street below. He literally put his life at incredible risk to save the life of a woman who wanted to die. If that isn’t guts, I don’t know what is.
The next rescue came three years later, in April 1993, when some jacked-up escaped mental patient was going nuts on the roof of Boston City Hospital threatening to swan-dive to the pavement six stories below.
Naturally, Ed Loder was sent up in the bucket to get him down.
What resulted kind of makes me think of that scene from Dirty Harry where Clint Eastwood thwarts a suicide by punching the jumper.
Loder extended the rescue ladder to its maximum height of 105 feet – not something that is generally recommended – but still sat about five feet below the roof of the building. The man was visibly insane and freaked out, throwing rocks off the roof at cars as they drove down Mass Ave. Loder, looking to get closer to the guy, stood basically on the next-to-last rung of the fully extended ladder, straining every muscle as he leaned and reached for this guy to try and help him. For over an hour he hung there, negotiating with a madman, trying to get this guy to chill out and come down and not kill himself or injure someone else. He managed to chill the dude by cracking a joke about wanting to take him out to eat sandwiches, but while all this was going on his muscles burned as he hung over a hundred feet from the curb and certain death. But this fucking firefighter wasn’t about to give up for anything.
Then, just when it looking like things were going ok, the man looked Ed in the face, said “I’m going to jump,” and leapt from the roof of the hospital.
Ed Loder caught him. One handed.
So here’s this Boston firefighter, one hand gripping the shirt of a madman, both hanging at the very maximum extent that a fire ladder can go, suspended over downtown Boston in the middle of the day while a huge crowd watches in horror. Grabbing on for all he could, holding this guy while maintaining his grip on the ladder, Eddie Loder yelled for the ladder operator to lower them down.
Only instead of lowering them, the ladder operator (presumably in awe of the fucking insane display of badassitude he just witnessed) hit the wrong button and accidentaly swung the ladder towards the building, bodyslamming Eddie against the building, crushing his right arm, and causing him to start bleeding profusely all over the place.
Still he hung on.
An excruciatingly long, finger-breakingly long ladder ride later, both Eddie Loder and the man planted their feet firmly on the sidewalk. Both would be fine.
Firefighter Eddie Loder was highly decorated for both of these encounters, but his service history is basically just a list of badass things he’s done in his 42-year career kicking ass for the BFD. In ’94 he almost died fighting a nine-alarm fire (!) but managed to pull a buddy of his out of the ridiculously-smoke-filled basement of a warehouse by finding a fire hose and tracing the line back out of the building. In 1998, at the age of 50, he saved a woman who had jumped off the Longfellow Bridge when he threw on a flotation suit, dove into the freezing-ass Charles River in the middle of the frigid Boston winter, swam 400 feet to the woman’s floating body, dragged her to a waiting boat, and then resuscitated her with CPR. In 2005 he jumped onto dangerous subway tracks to pull a woman out from underneath a Red Line train after she’d fallen off the subway platform and got stuck under the train.
In addition to all the unit citations given to Rescue 1 (and the list is as long as Dhalsim’s arm), Eddie Loder is among the most decorated firefighters in Boston history, receiving the Roll of Merit in 1987, 93, 98, and 2001, as well as the prestigious Walter Scott Medal of Valor in 1990 for the rescue at the Ritz.
As of 2012 the 42-year-veteran was still on the job.
Ellement, John. "Firefighter catches man jumping off BCH building". Boston Globe. April 17, 1993.
Kenney, Charles C. Rescue Men. PublicAffairs, 2007.
Middleton, Michael. Medal of Valor Firefighters. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2003.