The city said goodbye to three high-ranking Fire Department officials Saturday in the first funerals since the attack on the World Trade Center.
Services were held for First Deputy Commissioner William Feehan, Chief of Department Peter Ganci Jr. and Fire Chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge, better known to members of the department as Father Mike.
More than 2,000 people attended Father Mike's funeral in Manhattan. The chaplain was killed when he was struck by debris from the twin towers while he was performing last rites to firefighters who had died in the attack.
Firefighters remembered him as a warm, loving man who loved his work and loved the people he worked with.
"In the next few weeks we're going to have names added - name after name of people who are being brought out of that rubble - and Mychal Judge is going to be on the other side of death to greet them instead of sending them there, and he's going to greet them with that big Irish smile," Reverend Michael Duffy said in his eulogy.
Among the dignitaries paying their final respects to Father Mike was former president Bill Clinton, who said, "All of us who were privileged to know him feel a special loss, but we should lift his life up today as an example of what has to prevail in this conflict. We cannot let the 21st century world degenerate into killing over religious and racial and political differences. We have to, more of us, be like Father Mike than the people that killed him."
In Queens, Deputy Commissioner Feehan was laid to rest. A 42-year veteran of the FDNY, Feehan had held every possible rank within the department, including acting fire commissioner.
"He had a chance to retire, but he didn't want to," said Joe Fitzpatrick, a friend of Feehan's. "He's got almost 40 years on the job and he wanted to stay. If he retired he wouldn't have been happy. This was his life, and he lived and died the way he wanted to."
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Commissioner Von Essen attended Chief Ganci's funeral in Farmingdale, Long Island, where they expressed their love and admiration for all the members of the FDNY who lost their lives in the attacks.
"One of the good things about being commissioner is that you really know how the department works, and one of the horrible things is that you know the people so well. I look at the list of missing, and I see not just friends that I have, but friends who are missing sons," Von Essen said Saturday after attending Ganci's funeral. "I have never had to deal with anything like this before, and I'm sure I never will again. I don't know how to explain it - I just need to keep going."
"Pete Ganci died the way he wanted to die. He decided a long time ago that if he had to die, this is the way he was going to die: by fighting fires and saving lives," added the mayor.
Von Essen said Saturday more than 300 firefighters are among the more than 4,900 people who have been missing since the World Trade Center was destroyed by a pair of hijacked planes Tuesday.
On Sunday, Von Essen and Mayor Giuliani will preside at a ceremony in Brooklyn to promote 168 members of the Fire Department to fill the positions of firefighters who have been lost.
Chief of Operations Daniel Nigro will be promoted to chief of department. Assistant Chief Salvatore Cassano will be promoted to replace Nigro. Two deputy chiefs will become assistant chiefs, and there will be 164 other promotions in the lower ranks.