Mayor Nutter told mourners today for fallen firefigher Daniel Sweeney, "We are a city in pain as we have lost our friend, a firefighter."
Taking the pulpit following a Mass of Christian Burial in St. Cecilia Church in Fox Chase, Nutter said some wonder why firefighters do what they do. "I don't, They are very special individuals. They run toward danger...they put their lives on the line every day."
Speaking to Daniel's father, David, a retired firefighter, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers recalled the day Daniel was sworn in as a firefighter. There were photos and lots of pride and a promise to take care of him. "We did but only God can take care of him the best," Ayers said.
Sweeney, 25, and Lt. Robert Neary, 59, died Monday when a wall collapsed as they were inspecting a building adjacent to a burning warehouse in Kensington.
Hundreds of firefighters turned out Friday for a viewing for Neary. A private gathering was planned for Saturday afternoon.
A motorcade of fire trucks and mourners escorted Sweeney to a burial in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on West Cheltenham Avenue in Philadelphia.
In St. Cecilia's, Sweeney's mother, Marian Sweeney told the packed church that her son's death had thrust a very private family into a public moment. She shared stories of her son, "a very funny guy" who had recently told her he knew she had raised him right and he planned to come back to the church.
She asked to see her son's body, she said and he had a smile on his face. "I'd like to think that Daniel saw the angel," she said. "You don't have to pray for Daniel. Daniel is with God...but please keep us in your prayers."
The Mass was celebrated by the church paster, Rev. Charles E. Bonner. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput attended and briefly addressed the mourners.
To a standing room only crowd and mourners standing solemnly outside, Bonner praised Sweeney and all firefighters for their service.
Following the example of Jesus Christ, "that's what all of these firefigthers and EMTs and police officers do every day not knowing if they are going to come home. They do that for us."
He added: "You firefighters do so many big things so very very well and there are some little things you do exceptionally well."
He recalled hearing about a little boy who stood at attention every time a fire truck went by saying he loved firefighters because "they make me happy. They always wave to me."
Bonner asked: "How many times did Dan wave to that little child? The child will never forget that."
Bonner thanked Sweeney's parents--David and Marian--"for the gift of Daniel" and his three sisters--Suzanne, Sarah and Debbie--and all firefighter brothers and sisters. "Thank you for the gift of your brother. We are most grateful."
For the many who couldn't fit into the church there was a large jumbotron screen with speakers to telecast the Mass of Chriatian Burial which began at 11 a.m.
Hundreds stood outside to watch the funeral mass, many police and firefighters who live in the neighborhood, standing solemnly with their own children.
The viewing for Sweeney continued in the church early Saturday as hundreds milled around outside, including firefighters in formal dress and others who wanted to pay their last respects.
Other firefighters, dressed in their work clothes, came directly from their shifts. Several fire trucks that will escort the funeral procession were decked in black bunting.
Across from the church a huge hospitality tent awaited firefighters who have come from all over the United States and Canada.
Awaiting the start of the Mass, the screen displayed these words: "The City of Philadelphia honors our lost heros."
To the solemn beat of a drum, Sweeney's body arrived at the church on Rhawn Stree shortly before 9 Saturday morning.
Philadelphia Fire Department City Engine 7 carried the casket flanked by Sweeney's colleagues.
The drump corps played Irish music including "Danny Boy" as the procession made its way. On a quiet, clear morning, it was only the beat of the drum that could be heard from a distance.
After the casket entered the church, humdreds of people, including many uniformed firefighters and neighbors, stood quietly at attention for several minutes. Only the sound of a chirping bird could be heard.
Hundreds of firefighters from numerous area companies and as far away as Calgary, Canada lined Rhawn street outside the church and stood at attention.
Scores of community members also gathered on corners and by the church to give their respects as the family approached the church.
Dignitaries Nutter and Ayers were in the procession leading into the church.
Baltimore firefighter Scott Novack left after the end of his shift at 6 a.m. to be in Philadelphia. Originally from North Wales, he is the son of a volunteer firefighter. His brother, also a firefighter, almost lost his life in the line of duty. When he heard about the deaths of Sweeney and Lt. Robert Neary, he knew he had to come.
"If something happens to us, no matter where you are, it affects all of us," Novack said.
Viewings for each man were held last night, along with a memorial service for Neary. The funeral for both men are today, in separate locations.
Officials say the warehouse where the fire started had been the subject of numerous complaints.
The investigation into the cause of the fire was continuing, Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter said in an e-mail. "The fire marshal is still engaged at the site. There is nothing to report at this point."