FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 24, 2007
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR FIREFIGHTER ROBERT BEDDIA
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg’s eulogy as delivered.
“Monsignor, thank you. Your Eminence, Governor Spitzer, Comptroller Thompson, District Attorney Donovan, Commissioner Scoppetta, friends and family, and particularly members of the Department – especially all the guys from Engine 24 and Ladder 5:
“This morning we come together, just as we did just yesterday, to grieve, but also to celebrate life. And I can’t think of a better place to do it, the most spectacular cathedral in our city, surrounded by legions of New York’s Bravest, resplendent in their dress blues.
“Perhaps the only person who might be embarrassed by all of this ceremony and the massive show of support would be Bobby Beddia himself. After everything I’ve heard about Bobby, I thought Monsignor Delendick had it right, this was a guy who was driven and happy. This was a guy who was competitive and compassionate. This is the same man who repeatedly turned down the offers of his superiors to recommend him for department honors. ‘You don’t need to do that,’ he’d say. ‘I’m just doing my job.’
“And for 23 years, Bobby did his job. For 23 years, he was a quiet hero. He was a man of few words – but when he spoke, others listened. His voice was always calm, even in the most difficult and dangerous times – and that was great comfort to those who were around him. As the most senior member in the house, Bobby commanded a great deal of respect, and was always willing to take others under his wing. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the neighborhood and a level of experience that just can’t be replaced. His loss really has left an irreparable home at the heart of his firehouse – and in the heart of all New Yorkers.
“I never got the chance to meet Bobby, unfortunately, but from what I’ve heard, he wouldn’t have wanted this sendoff to be too glum, and that was part of his happy-go-lucky spirit. Come what may, what may.
“There’s a story that I love. During a trip to Italy once, he decided to buy a car – because it was cheaper than renting one. And then, when it was time to fly home, he just rolled up to the airport, put the car into park, left the keys in the ignition, and walked away. Now that probably wasn’t allowed – but you have to admit, it was a pretty cool thing to do.
“The fact is, Bobby exuded the kind of “cool” that enables most of- eludes most of us. He spent most of his time in the Village: Dinner dates at Arturo’s, nights tending bar at Chumley’s, games of Texas Hold-em in the firehouse kitchen, which he usually won – with that great poker face.
“One of the few things that actually lured him out of the neighborhood, apparently, was golf. It was his biggest passion, although his friends will tell you that his game needed a little bit of work. The problem, his brother Ed explained, was that Bobby was too athletic and too muscular to have a smooth, graceful swing. I actually like that excuse, I think I’m going to start using it myself.
“But Bobby didn’t just care about his score, he just loved to be out on the course with his buddies from the firehouse. He often went down to Myrtle Beach – and as far as Florida and California. They even had a game planned for Southern Jersey. It was supposed to be yesterday
“They were part of his family. Every firefighter was. And I think that tremendous responsibility he felt for his colleagues shone brightest during the two darkest moments of his career. The first was the Watts Street fire in 1994, which eventually would claim the lives of three members of his house, including his captain.
“Before Captain Drennan succumbed to his injuries, Bobby would often drive the Drennan family in from Staten Island to the hospital. And Bobby continued to visit the families of all three men nearly every day for months after they were laid to rest.
“Then, seven years later, during a morning he was off-duty, Bobby got a call from his sister about a fire at the World Trade Center. He raced down to the site and spent much of the following months searching for the 11 men from his house who were buried somewhere in the rubble and helping with the recovery efforts. Bobby’s family believes that he never completely got over his regret he felt for not being on duty that day. And that might have been why- one of the reasons why he was at the front of the hose on Saturday afternoon, determined to look after his guys.
“Barbara, Susan, Ed and James: My heart goes out to all of you. Bobby’s death was a tragic loss of life that probably never should have happened. This fire has raised a lot of difficult questions. Even yesterday, two firefighters were injured at the site.
“I promise you that we will get to the answers to those questions – and that those answers will lead to actions that will make the FDNY stronger and safer. But I hope it’s a small consolation that your youngest brother died doing what he loved, for the people that he loved.
“I want to finish with a story that the guys in his house like to tell that really says a lot about Bobby: A few years ago, they were all going to play in a charity golf game near the Delaware Water Gap. Bobby was given the wrong directions, but when he showed up at the event hours late, he didn’t complain, he didn’t throw a fit, he was perfectly calm. He told them he had had a great time, cruising along Route 80 in his beloved Alfa Romeo, with the top down, and the wind blowing through his hair, smiling all the way. What a perfect image. And who knows? Maybe that was Bobby’s own image of heaven. So, for today, why don’t we make it ours, as well?
“May God bless his memory. May God bless all the lives that he touched. May God bless the FDNY.”
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958