Firefighters at the West Roxbury firehouse contend that Cahill, who was assigned to Engine 30, and Payne, who was on Ladder 25, deserve to be remembered without controversy.
"They are very missed guys," said Lieutenant Robert Cardillo, who has been assigned to the West Roxbury firehouse for four years and who was interviewed before the cookout was canceled.
"No matter what happened, two guys are dead, and the families are still hurting," he said.
Cardillo and firefighters at the Centre Street firehouse declined yesterday to talk about the circumstances of the deaths of their colleagues and the political turmoil that has followed.
But Cardillo said firefighters decided they needed to show appreciation to their West Roxbury neighbors, who showed strong support for the firehouse in the immediate aftermath of the fire.
"We want to tell them that we appreciate what they did for us," said Cardillo, "and to also recognize the two guys that died.
"They were two guys that were loved, really."
The firehouse members took out an ad in the neighborhood newspaper last week announcing the cookout and inviting residents to the firehouse for hot dogs, hamburgers, and "heaping helpings of thanks."
The firefighters raised $1,400 among themselves to buy commemorative plaques for Payne and Cahill that will be installed on the firehouse wall and planned to unveil them before the cookout.
But yesterday, after word of the plans reached fire headquarters, Chief of Department Kevin MacCurtain ordered the cookout canceled. He said in an interview last night that he did not feel that a cookout was an appropriate way to recognize a tragedy.
"I feel from a standpoint of tradition and respect that's just not the right thing to do at this time," MacCurtain said, adding that an observance of the deaths will still go forward with a short prayer service at 1 p.m. and the unveiling of the plaques.
MacCurtain is wrong.
If this were my neighborhood and I had been planning to attend the cook-out, I would just bring cook-out stuff and go. I would talk to my neighbors and make sure they brought stuff too. What's MacCurtain going to do if you show up with hamburgers and hot dogs and potato salad?