Cop Talk 3, Ceremony
On occasion a firefighter or police officer has to attend a funeral when they lose a running mate or a partner. They are sad events, but they are always well attended and are performed with the intent of honoring the lost warrior and easing the pain for his or her family. Recently Keith Bettinger, a retired Suffolk County, NY police officer, sent me a selection he penned about a funeral for a NYFD hero. It is both poignant and touching. I thank Keith for sending it to our website.
FAREWELL TO A HERO
By Keith Bettinger
The week of October 8, 1995 has brought pain to New York City and it's uniformed forces. Sunday night, October 8, Firefighter Peter McLaughlin, thirty-one years old, died fighting a fire. He and his partner were making a search of a burning building to see if anyone remained behind. They were members of the elite, Rescue 4. They were the experts in search and rescue. The ones you want to come looking for you if you are trapped in a burning building.
While conducting the search, Peter's partner saw a glow. A glow that tells an astute firefighter what kind of horror and terror is about to come next. The hallway erupted in an explosion of heat and rolling flames. Peter's partner broke out a window and called to a ladder crew that they needed help. As he called for help, the ladder truck swung it's bucket to the window. Valiant FDNY members were able to pull Peter's partner, who was seriously burned, from the ledge, but, it was too late for Peter. No matter how hard they tried, they could not get in and rescue Peter.
Long Island is referred to as the "bedroom community" of New York City. It is where many of the New York City firefighters live and raise their families. The community of Northport, NY, where Peter grew up, reached out to the McLaughlin family and the New York City firefighters who came to pay their respects. Local police provided an honor guard at the door to the funeral parlor. Plans were put in place so that firefighters and others, attending services on Thursday morning, could pay their last respects, as Peter was carried to his final resting place. He was carried on a fire truck of the department he so loved.
Approximately 10,000 firefighters gathered on Thursday morning to honor Peter. They came from New York City, not only because he was one of their own, but, because he was from Rescue 4. They knew if they ever needed him, he would have been there to help them. There were firefighters from many cities in different states. They were the professionals that fight fires for a living.
There were also the volunteers. The members of the many local community fire departments who give not only their time but their family's time as well, so that their communities remain safe.
The uniforms were neatly pressed, the shoes were shined, and the badges were covered with black mourning bands. The patches and the badges told what departments they were from and how far they traveled, but everyone knew it was respect for a fallen hero that brought them all together.
As they stood in ranks, they came to attention as they heard the sound of distant muffled drums and pipes. As Peter's casket was removed from the fire truck by an honor guard of his friends and coworkers, a piper played a haunting melody. Arms were raised in a crisp salute. Some arms started to shake and many eyes were moist. Military precision and human emotions - signs of respect for a fallen hero.
The eulogy from within the church was heard by those gathering to pay their respects. The ranks stood in quiet contemplation.
As Peter was removed from the church, the ranks once again sprang to attention. The piper played as Peter was carried to his fire truck. As the procession departed, firefighters stood rendering a final salute, as the honor guard marched alongside the truck, to the cadence of muffled drums. The truck Peter was carried on, passed beneath two raised aerial ladders. The ladders almost touched over the center of the street. Flying from the ladders was a large American flag. This tribute stood, as if it was a special gateway to heaven for the fallen firefighter.
Less than two weeks before, at a parade in Westhampton, Long
Island's citizens honored all the firefighters who fought a wild fire that ravaged part of the east end of the island. They cheered and held up signs praising all the firefighters for their heroic efforts. Now members of the community stood amongst the firefighters where there were openings in the crowd, or on lawns and porches overlooking the processional route. They stood with hands across their hearts. Although for many, New York City seemed a world away, they still stopped to pay their respects to a fallen hero who has answered his last alarm.
I have enclosed a picture on a card given to me by a member of the Axe Men Motorcycle Club (Detroit Chapter). They went to a funeral for Chicago Firefighter Edward J Stringer Sr. who lost his life in the line of duty on Dec.22,2010. I believe the card says it all.
We will always remember the sacrifice of Ed Stringer and Pete McLaughlin.
"Fire Talk" Archives
- Benny the Hook
- Got To Love Texas
- The Fog of Retirement
- Two Tough Kids
- On Leaving the Department
- Cop Talk 3, Ceremony
- Putting it on the Line
- A Bond of Love
- God Will Protect Us
- Stealing Fires
- Poo Poo Pants
- Decoy Carver
- Firefighter's Road Trip
- Day Twenty-seven. Road Trip
- Down Mexico Way
- Zoo in the 7th
- A Gentle Landing
- Always a Firefighter
- Christmas at the Firehouse
- Harem Sacrum
- The Crow Who Spoke Polish
- Once a Firefighter always a Firefighter
- A Brotherhood
- Retiring a Hall of Fame Firefighter
- Anatomy of Forcible Entry
- Old Horses
- The Milk Wagon
- The Howling
- Tales of the Seventh Battalion 26, Destructo
- Memories of the 7th Battalion
- Running Mates
- Engine 32
- Last Alarm
- Tiger Stadium Fire
- To Moosenee and Back
- Memorial Day 2009
- Anatomy of a Fire at a Dangerous Building
- Tales of the Seventh Battalion 25, A Typical 7th Battalion Fire
- Boris the Talking Dog
- Wear and Tear
- Tales of the Seventh Battalion 24, Legends
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 23, Ankie
- Anatomy of a Dwelling Fire
- A Firefighter's Spring
- My Running Mate
- The Singing Fireman
- The Right Stuff
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 22, A Desperate Rescue
- 300 Spartans
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 21, Men Who Fight Bears
- At the End of His Rope
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 20, Wolf Warriors
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 19, Motorcycle Maniac
- Career Ending Injuries
- Detroit Loses One of Its Finest
- On Duty Injuries
- Unpractical Jokes
- Dedication in the Fire Service
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 18, Spare Parts
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 17, Passage to Hell
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 16, Gallant Warrior
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 15, Big Ones
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 14, Chicago Lil
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 13, Bridge Fires
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 12, Hot Stuff
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 11, Taco Wars
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 10, Day in Hell
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 9, Engine House Cat
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 8, Finding a Pen
- The Polish Squad
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 7, Wayne Soap
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 6, Junk Yard Goat
- The 1967 Riot in Detroit 3
- Department Legends
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 5, The Fonz
- The 1967 Riot (an entry from Tom Hart)
- The 1967 Detroit Riot
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 4, Howard
- The Buhl Building Fire
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 3, Engine 27
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 2, Roof Rescue
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 1, Explosion
- The worst 7th Battalion Fire
- Fire Incidents
- Beeler's Fog Monster
- Thoughts of a Retired Firefighter
- Dogs of the Realm
- Going to the Dogs
- Firefighter/Lawyer ?
- Moe Tales
- The Legend of Moe
- A POEM: When Brave Men Cry