The melancholy skirl of bagpipes and tolling of a cemetery bell were the backdrop on a wintry Saturday as hundreds of firefighters mourned fallen Philadelphia colleague Joyce Michelle Craig.

They came from across the United States and from Canada, the line four deep outside the West Oak Lane funeral home. Each paused briefly at the casket to remove his or her hat or bow or salute.

"When Joyce first got her hand on that study manual to take the test to be a firefighter, she studied that manual day in and day out," her brother Michael Craig said, as an overflow crowd listened from the street. "That dedication wasn't spur-of-the-moment. It was from the muscle. It was from her heart."

Craig, 37, an 11-year veteran of the department and a mother of two, died Tuesday while helping fight a fire in West Oak Lane. Assigned to Engine 64 in Crescentville, Craig was working overtime with Engine 73 when she became trapped in the basement of the dwelling. An elderly woman who lived in the house was rescued.

Craig, one of Philadelphia's 150 female firefighters and paramedics, was the city's first female firefighter to die on duty.

Family said she had dreamed of the job since she was a child. Even suffering burns early in her career that left her bedridden for two months did not deter her.

"She returned to work and ultimately not only proved herself an equal to the men in this department, she proved herself one of our finest firefighters," said Joe Schulle, president of Firefighters and Paramedics Local 22.

With spunk and wit, she excelled in the male-dominated field, friends and colleagues told the crowd. But inevitably every eulogy centered more on her dedication to her family, to her 16-month-old daughter, Laylani, and 16-year-old son, Mekhi.

Many spoke directly to the teen.

"Mekhi, you need to know that every story began with you. And every decision was made with you in mind," Bernard Newsome, a firefighter and a friend of Craig's, said. "From the days she helped you take your first steps to the days she gave you room to make your own decisions, she prepared you for today. Your mom wanted you to know that you are ready."

Mayor Nutter, who had walked behind the sheath-draped fire truck as it carried Craig's casket to the Batchelor Brothers funeral home Saturday morning, told the family the city felt their sadness and "will all collectively be there for you."

"We care about you. We love you. We're here for you," he said, beside the navy coffin adorned in blue and white flowers.

As Nutter told them Craig would be posthumously promoted to lieutenant, family who knew she had secretly dreamed of being a fire marshal applauded.

Outside, the crowd followed, the applause restrained, heads tilted to a screen showing the ceremony.

Four female Philadelphia firefighters linked arms, rested their heads on one another's shoulders, and cried.

Around them were colleagues from all over Pennsylvania and New Jersey. From Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, Massachusetts. From Connecticut, Virginia, California, Illinois, Indiana. The District of Columbia. Toronto.

Six women from the Detroit Fire Department, including the city's fire marshal, drove nine hours to be there. They called Craig their "sister" and said they rearranged plans with their families to make the trip.

"We will get to see them again," said Detroit firefighter Verdine Day. "We'll never get a chance to see her again."

As the ceremony ended, they and the others formed a sea of perfectly straight lines facing the funeral home, saluting as Craig's flag-draped casket was raised onto Fire Engine 64.

The truck made the five-mile drive north to Ivy Hill Cemetery with Craig's badge number - 3987 - pinned to a red rose-covered cross affixed to the front. Entering the grave site, it passed beneath two fire trucks whose outstretched ladders held the corners of an American flag flapping in the wind.

The graveside ceremony was brief - a bagpipe chorus played "Amazing Grace"; a child wrapped himself in the tail of his mother's coat and peered from the slit; onlookers watched several paces back, giving the family a moment of privacy.

Two firefighters were the last to leave.

Before turning, one picked a single stem from a bouquet, held the small, yellow rosebud to his lips and placed it on the casket.

215-854-2730 @TriciaNadolny