The Farmington area, and the entire state of Maine, got some much needed good news this week with the return of Larry Lord.
Lord is the heroic maintenance supervisor from LEAP, Inc. who detected a gas leak at the Farmington facility in September and quickly got everyone out of the building. He went back into the building, and was severely injured when it exploded — due to what we now know was a severed gas line.
One Farmington firefighter, Cpt. Michael Bell, died in the blast. Several other firefighters were injured. Farmington was able to welcome each of those brave first responders home in the months that followed.
But Lord remained hospitalized in Boston for five months before being transferred in February to a rehabilitation facility, also in Massachusetts. And as Assistant Fire Chief Tim Hardy said last fall, the community was “not going to be complete until we can get Larry Lord home.”
That homecoming finally happened Friday, with the Maine State Police, firefighters and other first responders escorting Lord back through Farmington on the way to his home in Jay.
“We are so happy and grateful to be able to bring Larry home to continue his healing,” his wife, Sandy Lord, said in a statement earlier this week. She also noted that he “still faces a long and difficult road” to recovery. Thankfully, the next part of that road will be at home with his family.
“This is great news for the town of Farmington and for the State of Maine. On behalf of the people of Maine, it is my honor to say to Larry Lord: welcome home,” Gov. Janet Mills, who is from Farmington, said in a statement on Wednesday evening. “Your heroism on that tragic day, as well as your perseverance every day since, is a reminder during this difficult time that, with courage and kindness like yours, we can and will overcome.”
Lord earned the hero’s welcome he received Friday, even if he doesn’t think of himself as a hero.
“In Larry’s mind, the real heroes are the entire Farmington community, especially the many firefighters who paid a heavy price and Captain Michael Bell who gave his life,” Sandy Lord said.
In March the Red Cross honored Lord as one of it’s “Real Heroes.”
“Larry’s a very humble and private man and he’ll probably say, ‘I did my job that day, and I did what anyone else would do,’” his LEAP coworker Megan Goodine said at the time, as reported by the Associated Press. “But I have 12 friends and coworkers who feel very differently, as do their families.”
Lord acted quickly and decisively in a moment of crisis, and that action saved lives. By any standard, that should count as heroism.
A series of investigations continue to shed more light on the cause of the gas explosion that rocked Farmington on Sept. 16. The Maine fire marshal’s office confirmed in January that the propane leak was caused when a post installed to protect an air conditioning unit outside the LEAP building pierced the gas line under the parking lot. Both LEAP and the company installing the post were fined by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety violations. An initial report from the Maine Department of Labor found the town of Farmington was also at fault because it did not follow firefighter training and equipment standards, and a final state report is still in the works.
Even when we first knew little about the cause of the blast, we still knew there were ample reasons to be thankful for the first responders and people like Lord who continue to run toward danger to help others during an emergency. That same spirit is on display as first responders, health care workers, government employees, grocery store employees, small business owners, restaurant staff, and many others work tirelessly to keep Americans safe and healthy during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Larry Lord’s quick action months ago offers another reminder that is worth repeating during these uncertain times: Don’t underestimate the power of people trying to help each other in times of need.