A COMMUNITY cloaked in grief held a prayer vigil Sunday night to honor two fallen firefighters near the charred Kensington ruins where the pair sacrificed their lives one week ago.
In the end, the Day of Honor and Remembrance for Capt. Robert Neary and Lt. Daniel Sweeney - who were promoted posthumously at their funerals - simply said "thank you" to the firefighters.
"Thank you to those men, to all the others, men and women, who woke up in the middle of the night [and] wound up having a much different night after Easter than they thought they would ever have," Jeff Carpineta, president of the East Kensington Neighborhood Association, told the crowd of 75.
Neary, 59, and Sweeney, 25, were members of Ladder 10 and had answered the call for a warehouse fire April 9 at York and Jasper streets in Kensington. They were killed in the fire when a wall collapsed.
Carpineta also saluted "all first-responders who do things in moments that we're not able to do," adding: "They come between us and pure death and destruction."
He also gave thanks to the families of firefighters, saying "that there is love here in this neighborhood, that there is deep gratitute here in this neighborhood, that those fellows didn't lay down their lives for no one or nothing."
The controversy over the building's safety, its property owners and neighbors' repeated calls to the city were not discussed during the vigil. "This is about the firefighters and their families," said Gary Summerfield, with the neighborhood group Kensington Pride.
Rebecca Blake, co-pastor at Beacon Presbyterian, on Cumberland Street near Cedar, read a litany.
"We come together as a hurting people, grieving many things," Blake read. "We grieve the loss of life, debilitating injuries, the loss of homes and all that is familiar."
The crowd responded: "We are grieving. We are mourning. We are angry."
Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, whose district includes Kensington, attended the vigil to support friends who organized it, she said.
"This has been a dark week for the city," Quinones-Sanchez said after the tribute.
Firefighter Frank Mil, with Ladder 16, which was also at York and Jasper on the night of the fire, attended with a small group from the station.
Mil called the vigil "beautiful, wonderful."
"The neighbors and half these people, they don't probably know any firemen, but they were here, you know?"