Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at the FDNY Memorial Day Ceremony

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Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you, Chief. To all the family members, thank you for being here. We need to be here with you in solidarity, in support. Thank you for always remembering those we’ve lost. To all the men and women in the Fire Department who are here, thank you for being here to show your love, your support for these families, and your commitment to remembering those who have fallen. Commissioner Nigro and Chief Richardson, all the leaders of the FDNY, and the leaders of labor unions here, thank you for gathering every year, for never forgetting.

We gather after something indescribable – a year-and-a-half that has put us all through so much. 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 so many people here today are heroes of that fight against COVID. And so many of you are part of the reason why we are finally, as a city, coming back. But this horrible disease took from us some of our very best. 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. And we talk about the heroic decision and we talk about the heroic actions that these 10 good people displayed throughout their lives. But if they were here with us and we gave them that praise, you would typically hear the answer – I was just doing my job. And that just tells us even more the caliber of those we lost.

We lost EMT Evelyn Ford, a 27-year member of EMS. Since 1994, she had served the people that city. 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. And then, she was taken from us by COVID-19. There are examples of such commitment in this group of noble people we honor. We honor 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. Another powerful example, Firefighter James Marshall came from a family dedicated to this department, dedicated to this city. Son of a first responder at 9/11, joined in the months after the attacks – 19 years of service – lost in a horrible and tragic car accident. 10 good souls who gave their all.

To the families left behind, we have to honor you as well. We have to thank you as well. We have to be there for you. And this department has an extraordinary history and extraordinary tradition – they never forget the family members. So, we will stand by you. The City will stand by you. We cannot do what we wish we could do and bring back the one you love, but we can remember, we can honor them. We can remember the good they did. We can remember the way they lived their life and wish that all of us could be in any way as good as them.

On behalf of 8.8 million New Yorkers, to all the family members, God bless you. We stand by you and we will move forward together.

Battalion Chief Guerra: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. It is now my pleasure to introduce our Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro: Good morning. Welcome. Thank you all for being here at this beautiful monument on Riverside Drive to honor the lives of the members we’ve lost in this past year. It has been a challenging time. The pandemic stripping us of our ability to meet and mourn and gather and grieve in person, shoulder-to-shoulder as we are accustomed to doing. 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. We’ve faced loss in other ways also. We have had to say goodbye to members of our FDNY family far too soon. These were extraordinary people who dedicated their careers to a life of service. And, today, our most important day, we pay tribute to all of them.

On Memorial Day, we remember the legacies of our friends and colleagues by being here in respect and love, offering warmth and togetherness to their families. We celebrate their lives, remembering them for the smiles they brought to our faces, the bravery they showed on each shift, and the special place they have in the hearts of their family and friends. We gather here as one department in a show of respect to their families, because it is our duty to care for them and stand by them always. Memorial Day is a reminder that this promise does not end in death. The promise is renewed today for the families of the 10 members who died in this last year. We honor them in their families and we’ll always keep them in our thoughts. They served with honor and pride, working in firehouses, in EMS stations, responding to every kind of hazard and emergency. They were vigilant, they were relentless, and they were brave. They embodied the values and traditions of our great department, and, just like you, they sought to be better and do better every single day.

Our memorial here has been standing since 1913, and a visit here on Memorial Day is a time-honored tradition. I hope you can take a chance to see the monument up close. If you do, you’ll see the words “duty and sacrifice” on each side. Absent the word bravery, there can hardly be any more appropriate words to describe the work of our members. For the 10 who have died this past year, we remember their duty, their sacrifice, and their bravery. 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. May God bless the memory of every FDNY member was died in the line of duty, those currently battling illness, and the 10 members of the FDNY who we lost this past year. And may God continue to bless the FDNY.

Battalion Chief Guerra: Thank you, Commissioner. Next, we’ll hear from the Chief of Department, Thomas Richardson.

Chief of Department Thomas Richardson, FDNY: Good morning. Today, we’re gathering as a Fire Department family to remember 10 of our active members who we lost this past year. The monument we stand before is one of the most impressive monuments in the city. It has stood here for 108 years. We come together each year at this sacred place for a solemn purpose on the most important day on the FDNY calendar. The monument represents duty and sacrifice. The members we remembered today exemplify those words. A duty to service, a willingness to sacrifice for others, that is what the FDNY represents. Each day, in fact, as we stand here now, our members are responding to calls for help, whether a medical emergency of fire, or the types of emergencies, we take care of business. We’re a proud family. We represent what is good in society.

To the families of our fallen, thank you for being with us today. You have suffered great loss. We stand with you and your grief and sorrow, but also in solidarity. At the conclusion of the ceremony, as a mark of love and respect, the sea of blue that you see here will march in procession to honor you and your loved ones. That is to acknowledge that we will always be here for you. There is a Latin phrase – E Pluribus Unum, which means from many, one. We are many in number, but we are one family. For 156 years, the FDNY has been serving the citizens of New York City. The Department has evolved greatly throughout its history – new apparatus, new tools and equipment, new procedures. One thing that has never changed is the people who choose to serve and give of themselves for others. This is the essence of service, to take care of and help our fellow human beings. Wearing the FDNY uniform is an honor and a privilege. Each member being remembered today is part of this special and unique group to have worn the uniform proudly.

So, who are these people who choose to serve? They’re ordinary people who decide to do extraordinary things. Maybe they followed a family member into the business, or learned about our work from a friend, or maybe saw our members in action and became motivated. Whatever the case, they made a decision, a conscious decision, a conscious choice to take on a dangerous and dirty job. They were all individuals with their own talents. They contributed collectively to the greatness of the FDNY. I’m sure they would be proud to know that our future is bright. They left their mark on the department. I’d like to share the following from an article I recently read in a fire service magazine that is adapted from the [inaudible] service of Yom Kippur from our friends in the Jewish faith. At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we’ll remember. At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring, we’ll remember. At the shining of the sun and in the warmth of the summer, we’ll remember. At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn, we’ll remember. As long as we live, these members who we honor today, they too will live, for they are now part of us as we remember and honor them.

May God bless all of our honored families and may God continue to bless the FDNY.

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