Philadelphia firefighter Joyce Craig gave the ultimate sacrifice — her life — in helping save others from a house fire in West Oak Lane in December 2014, becoming the city's first female firefighter to die in the line of duty.
That is why getting a headstone for her grave took 3½ years.
"We didn't want to put just any headstone there," said Lisa Forrest, a captain in the Fire Department and president of Club Valiants, an association for black firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians. "We wanted to really memorialize her."
So it has.
At a ceremony featuring a violinist and singer, and attended by about 70 of Craig's relatives, friends, and fellow firefighters — including Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel — a headstone was unveiled Saturday morning at Craig's grave at Ivy Hill Cemetery and Crematory in East Mount Airy.
Carved in the shape of Craig's badge, the headstone bears her badge number — 3987 — and is embedded with a chip that enables visitors to call up her obituary on smartphones. Helping guide the design was James Lee of Lee Monument Co. in Philadelphia and Craig's son, Mekhi Green, 20. She also has a 5-year-old daughter, Laylani Lewis. Club Valiants held two fund-raisers to pay for it, said Forrest, declining to discuss specific costs.
"Engine 73 can't breathe, I can't breathe," Craig, 37, said in her final transmission Dec. 9, 2014, trapped in the dining room of the burning home on the 1600 block of Middleton Street. She was found nine minutes later and pronounced dead shortly after at a hospital.
A report released in April 2017 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found several factors had contributed to Craig's death, including broken and outdated breathing equipment, becoming separated from her crew members, unrestricted air flow in the house, and a backup team that took 21 minutes to arrive. Her death prompted several equipment updates and personnel additions.
Craig had been with the Fire Department 11 years. At the time of her death, she was stationed at Engine 64 in Crescentville but was working overtime that day with Engine 73 in West Oak Lane. She was posthumously promoted to lieutenant.