Memorial Garden: Remembering two lost firefighters
- Saturday, June 3, 2023 – Join the Ivan and Zach Memorial Gardens Committee starting at 11am on Broad St. We are starting to build the gardens and memorial! Find the Facebook event HERE.
For generations, the Weaver Organ and Piano made instruments that families used to play music. People would gather, listening to the lively entertainment. Sometimes, these groups did without a piano player. Weaver-made player pianos serenaded them with music.
Workers’ reputation for craftsmanship kept Weaver in business throughout the Great Depression and World War II. In 1959, however, the manufacturing building shut its doors. Radio, phonographs, and television overthrew self-generated music in popularity for family recreation.
Almost 60 years later, the Weaver Organ and Piano building was undergoing a rebirth. Workers were converting the red-brick building into living spaces. Then one day, a fire overtook the building, igniting the old factory into a bright, orange and red blaze. York City firefighters rushed in. Fortunately, the firefighters extinguished the flames, but hot spots remained.
While cooling those spots, two firefighters lost their lives. Ivan Flanscha and Zach Anthony were the first York City firefighters to pass while serving since 1971. Only 11 firefighters died in the line of duty before them.
There used to be a blank space outside the old Weaver building. But today, plants thrive along Broad Street. Locals and a nonprofit organization, York XL, extended the garden to memorialize the two fallen firefighters – Ivan Flanscha and Zach Anthony. “We were moved to meet Ivan & Zach’s families,” York XL wrote on its Facebook page. “We hope the garden memorials will honor their sacrifice.” The garden was originally part of the Broad Street Greenway project.
The message of the Ivan Flanscha and Zach Anthony memorial garden is one of respect. Respect for the firefighters and for the community to remember. These are places where people feel that they belong, reflecting on the meaning of loss. “These public spaces are the physical embodiment of our culture,” York XL’s website states. The spaces affect the way we think about ourselves and each other.
In How Modernity Forgets, Anthropologist Paul Connerton suggests modernity has a tendency to quickly purge the past and turn its head toward the present – or even future. The generation of Americans who grew up at the end of the twentieth century live in a state of “permanent present” in which they have severed ties with our history.
Forgetting has almost become a cultural characteristic of the times. By creating areas like the memorial garden on Broad Street, York is creating a “place memory.” It’s a location that connects us to history and each other, overriding the amnesia that modernity inflicts on us.
The Flanscha and Anthony memorial garden will be a place to do just that – remember. However, the direction of residents’ thoughts will determine what goes into the space. Some have suggested a bench, others a table, and still others a plaque. What material items need to be placed in the memorial garden to facilitate remembrance? What can we build together to make sure these heroes are never forgotten?
Jamie is on the Ivan and Zach Memorial Gardens Committee and York XL board member.
Related links and sources Mike Argento’s “The last alarm for two fallen York firefighters; Top photo, York City Fire Department Photo. Middle and bottom photo, Jamie Kinsley Photo.
— By JAMIE NOERPEL and JIM McCLURE