Thousands of members of the FDNY resumed the tradition, after a one-year hiatus caused by the coronavirus, of assembling at the Firemen’s Memorial on Riverside Drive Oct. 6 to mark the department’s annual Memorial Day commemoration of active-duty members who died over the course of the prior year.
Last year, the department opted to produce a virtual event with a scaled-down ceremony at the department’s Brooklyn Headquarters.
Mourn 10 Who Passed
“It has been a challenging time,” Commissioner Daniel Nigro told the large sea of blue FDNY uniforms. “The pandemic stripped us of our ability to meet and mourn and gather and grieve in person, shoulder-to-shoulder as we are accustomed to doing.”
Of the 10 active-duty members mourned this year, two died from COVID.
He continued, “On this somber day, it is a blessing to see you, to allow the shared sorrow we all feel to permeate the crowd and provide strength to those who need it. 1,153 members of our department have given their lives in the course of their sworn duty. More than 250 have died of illness related to their time at the World Trade Center, working in rescue and recovery.”
“For the 10 who have died this past year, we remember their duty, their sacrifice, and their bravery,” he said. “They mattered to this city, they mattered to our department, and they mattered to all of you. To their families, we remind you today, as every day, that we will never forget your loved ones.”
Cites 'Crucial Role'
Mayor de Blasio told the gathering, “There was no way we could possibly have understood before what it would be like to fight our way through a pandemic together. And the FDNY, the men and women of the FDNY, played such a crucial role, protecting the city, answering calls in the most difficult of circumstances, dealing with the great unknown of COVID. And I have to say, the 10 good people we honor today, we all need to remember the decision they made to serve others. We need to remember the bravery. We need to remember, they did what so few in our city, in our society are capable of doing: stand up and answer the call, put their lives on the line.”
He cited the death from the virus of Emergency Medical Technician Evelyn Ford.
“Since 1994, she had served the people that city,” Mr. de Blasio said. “She worked for the best emergency medical dispatch unit in the world. And every time a New Yorker was in need, she was there for them.”
He then spoke of "Firefighter Joseph A. Ferrugia, 30-year veteran, twice cited for bravery, a first-responder on 9/11. And he lived through that horror and he fought through every challenge and he saves lives, but then he was taken from us by this horrible disease.”
The department also remembered Firefighter James J. Marshall, EMT Thomas C. Akerberg, Firefighter Carmine J. Barresi, EMT Azzedin M. Ahmed, Firefighter Norman A. Zuniga, EMT Steven Acevedo, EMS Lieut. Danielle G. Connell and Firefighter Michael J. Katz.
The services were followed by a military type review of the 5,000 FDNY members who were present in their parade dress attire past the dignitaries and surviving family members.
“It’s one way that our families get a sense of the size of the family they are a part of,” said one frequent attendee.
"As all New York City Firefighters are aware, ‘Never Forget’ is more than just a phrase,” wrote Andy Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, after the service. “It is a promise that is fulfilled in word and in action...Firefighter Memorial Day is a sacred day on the calendar among this Union’s membership, to pay respect to those who have selflessly protected this City, State, and nation in service of the Fire Department of New York.”
His Uniformed Fire Officers Association counterpart, James McCarthy, said, "There are only two places to be on Memorial Day--at work on the firetruck or at those services."
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