FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 23, 2007
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR FIRE FIGHTER JOSEPH GRAFFAGNINO
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg’s eulogy as delivered
“Bishop Catanello, Father Buchanan, Father Maria and rest of the clergy. Linda, Rosemarie, Joseph, Maria, Teresa, Governor Spitzer, Commissioner Scoppetta, Chief Cassano and all of the friends, neighbors, and family of Joseph Graffagnino.
“A few years ago, when Joe was assigned to Engine Company 284 in Dyker Heights, his trip to work each day was a little boy’s dream come true. This is a true story; he climbed up a ladder leaning against his family’s backyard wall and then down another ladder to the firehouse on 78th Street, the same firehouse that he had been looking at from his bedroom window since he was a child, feeding his fantasies about someday becoming one of our Bravest. ‘How was the commute today, Joe?’ his fellow firefighters would ask. ‘Oh, brutal!’ would be his reply.
“The truth of course was that those two ladders were planted in what mattered most in Joe’s life; the family that he loved and the Fire Department that was his calling. Those were the two strong legs that he strode on through life. Now his family and friends and also thousands of members of the world’s greatest fire department come together to pray for him as he makes life’s final journey.
“The grief felt today by Joe’s loved ones is truly heartbreaking but I hope that the tremendous outpouring of love here today shows that while his life was far too short, it was one that earned the admiration of our entire city. As a measure of our respect, I want to let you know that Joe is being promoted, posthumously, to the rank of lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York. No question about it, he earned it.
“Joe was an extraordinarily good firefighter. He was strong, dependable, and quick to learn, someone who seemed born for the job. In the best tradition of the FDNY, you would always find him at the forefront of any fire scene and his fellow firefighters at Ladder 5 and Engine 24 will long remember how he also established a tradition of his own: Sunday nights with chef Graffagnino in command of the firehouse kitchen.
“First turning out an hour’s worth of mouth-watering antipasto followed by the main course: mountains of ravioli produced from the ingredients that Joe shopped for personally and he then put together in his own recipe. When it came to cooking Italian food according to anybody that had ever eaten there, or eating Italian food anyplace for that matter, he had uncompromising standards.
“So if someone at the firehouse made meatballs for dinner, Joe would just roll off his plate and back into the pot because in his book only one person could make meatballs, and that was you, Rosemarie. And it was always good news for his fellow firefighters when he brought in one of your famous homemade ricotta cheesecakes.
“Joe never made any secret of how much everyone in his family meant to him, especially his children. It was a big day for him when he could take you, Mia, or your little brother Joey to work and show you off around the firehouse, or bring you along to a fire battalion softball game, as Joe did earlier this summer.
“It speaks volumes about how deeply in love he was with his children that little Joey’s sonogram stayed taped up on the inside door of his firehouse locker and that nothing made him happier than going shopping with Mia riding on his broad shoulders. He was, as one of his neighbors tells it, not the kind of guy who was ever ashamed to walk down the street with a baby stroller. And he was the handsome and devoted husband to you, Linda, that little girls dream of having.
“He was also an integral part of an extraordinarily tight-knit community, the sort of neighborhood where over the years people watched with pride as he grew from the polite, scrawny teenager making deliveries for Robert Brannigan’s A&S Pork Store to the neighbor who bought rock salt by the 50-pound sack so that he could clear the ice and snow from the front of every house on the block. And now his passing leaves a giant hole in this community’s heart and filling it is going to require the kind of quiet strength that Joe showed in such enormous measure.
“Mr. and Mrs. Graffagnino, my heart truly goes out to you. As a parent myself I can only imagine what you must be feeling. I hope it’s a small consolation at least that your son died doing what he believed in and what he dreamed of doing from such an early age. Linda, you are going to face some tremendous challenges in the days to come but you should know you will not have to meet them alone. The FDNY is a family, one that takes care of its own, especially in times of need. They’ve been by your side this week. They and we will continue to be there every step of the way for you.
“We owe you and your family our full support and we owe you and every member of the FDNY answers to the difficult questions that this fire raised. We’re going to get those answers and those answers will be followed by actions. But no investigation is going to change this fundamental truth: Firefighter Joseph Graffagnino was a brave man who protected the people of the greatest city in the world so that we can all live in safety. And we will never forget him.
“Later this morning, accompanied by an escort of honor, he will go to Greenwood Cemetery, with its lush hills overlooking our beautiful harbor. It’s one of the most tranquil spots in New York City. It’s also a haven of heroes, where hundreds of soldiers fought and fell for our nation’s liberty in the Battle of Brooklyn and where more than 3,000 veterans of the Civil War also found their final resting place.
“Today they will be joined by one more good and brave man, one to whom our city owes so much. May God bless the memory of Joseph Graffagnino and may God bless the FDNY.”
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958