The FDNY held a special ceremony Wednesday afternoon for the 12 firefighters who have died in the past year. Natalie Duddridge was on the Upper West Side and filed the following report on FDNY Memorial Day.
Thousands of firefighters and EMTs lined up outside the Firemen's Monument at 100th Street and Riverside Drive Wednesday for the 110th annual FDNY Memorial Day.
"This is the day we honor the brothers that we lost," said retired FDNY member Jack Pritchard. "I've been on 40 years; I probably saw 500 brothers die, been to 500 funerals."
Pritchard is among the most decorated firefighters in the city. He joined Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro and Mayor Bill De Blasio in paying tribute to 12 FDNY members lost in the last year.
"Every single day, when one of these good men and women leave their home, they understand the danger ahead when they say goodbye to a loved one," de Blasio said during his speech. "They know, and their loved ones know, that God forbid, it could be the last time," de Blasio said.
Of the dozen honored, ten died from job-related illnesses. The other two were killed in the line of duty, including EMT Yadira Arroyo, who was killed in the Bronx in March after a man stole her ambulance and then ran over and dragged her, officials say. The 14-year FDNY veteran left behind five children.
Queens firefighter William Tolley, 42, was also a 14-year-veteran. In April, he fell five stories while battling a fire in Ridgewood. Tolley left behind a wife and an eight-year-old daughter.
"We honor all of them, not for how they died, but for the incredible way in which they lived," Nigro said in his speech.
Firefighters say, sadly, they expect the list of names read each year will continue to grow as a result of 9/11-related illnesses.
"Jimmy Dunn, James Dunn was one of them. His father, matter of fact, broke me in," retired FDNY member James McCluskey said. "He was a young fireman, he succumbed to cancer, I think, from the World Trade Center."
Many of the FDNY members at the memorial service said that although they didn't know the 12 people who died in the past year, they were there to show their support, and pledge to never forget.
"The fire department is a family," Pritchard said. "Whether we know him or don't know him, we're all brothers."