Auld lang syne for Union Hospital doctor

Twenty-eight years ago today, 8-year-old Marisela Marrero was preparing for her family?s annual celebration of her father?s birthday and the coming of the new year. Having bought him handkerchiefs for a present, she anxiously waited for him to come home from work.When Manuel de Jesus Marrero did not appear, his daughter became more confused than worried.?He was always on time,” she said, recalling what she was thinking that day. “Why isn?t he here? Why isn?t he calling?”After a few hours, Marrero?s mother sent her and her two older brothers, William and Felix, with her grandmother to the party. At some point, an aunt told the Marrero children they would be staying with her for a few days.Marrero will never forget what she encountered when they returned home.?Everybody was dressed in black and they were all crying,” she said. “I didn?t understand what was happening. In a million years, it never entered my mind that my father would be dead. That was impossible. I saw him as a superhero. He could never die. He was too powerful and too fast and so good at what he did. It didn?t occur to me that it was my dad they were crying about.”Then her uncle sat down with her and her brothers to deliver the news: Their father, who would have turned 50 on New Year?s Day, was not coming home.?I didn?t believe it,” said Marrero, a Revere resident and emergency room doctor at Union and Salem hospitals. “I remember thinking he might have been in another country and couldn?t tell anyone about it. Then I saw that everybody was still crying and I knew he wasn?t coming back. I was very sad and very upset.”An arson turns deadlyManuel Marrero was a U.S. Secret Service agent stationed in his native Puerto Rico. In his distinguished career with the Secret Service, he had protected presidents and the Pope. He became an expert in counterfeit money, which is why he was called to the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan on New Year?s Eve 1986 – to look at some money that the hotel casino operators suspected was counterfeit.Hotel workers were locked in a bitter labor dispute with management, and were close to going on strike. With the hotel and casino packed with New Year?s Eve revelers, three employees wanted to show management they were serious, so they set a few small fires that were intended to scare some of the guests away and cost the hotel some business.Unfortunately, the fire alarm malfunctioned and, even though guests were verbally advised to evacuate, few did. A major fire ensued, quickly spreading from a ballroom to the casino area, where Marrero was examining the allegedly counterfeit money. In less than 15 minutes, the hotel was an inferno.There were 96 people killed, including Marrero, one of only 25 Secret Service agents to die in the line of duty in the 150-year history of the agency. Three union members ultimately pleaded guilty to setting the fire and received lengthy prison terms.About a year after the fire, Marrero?s mother, Gladys Rivera, took her and her brothers to visit the men in prison.?My mom wanted them to see the consequences of their actions,” she recalled. “They felt horrible about it. They said their intent was never to hurt and kill all those people, especially our father, and they wanted to apologize. They said it was a horrible mistake.”Influence of two men named BushAs children of a U.S. government employee, Marrero and her brothers attended the Antilles Consolidated Military School, recognized as one of the best in Puerto Rico. After their father died, the family received a letter informing them the children were no longer eligible to attend the school, so they enrolled in public school, much to the chagrin of their mother.The following summer the Marrero family was invited to Washington, D.C. to accept an award presented posthumously to Manuel Marrero. Despite being advised that the ceremony was neither the time nor place to address the military school issue, Rivera – who spoke limited English – brought it up with then-Vice Pres

More Stories In News