FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2008
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR FIRE LIEUTENANT JOHN MARTINSON
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg’s eulogy as delivered.
"Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Thank you, Monsignor Murphy. Ladies and gentlemen, Jessica, Iris, Steven, Lori, Maureen.
"Jessica, at the hospital you were saying to me, it wasn't supposed to be this way, and it's not supposed to be this way. Children shouldn't predecease their parents and heroes shouldn't be taken away from us because we need them to train the next generation. But the fact of the matter is that God, for some reason or another, saw fit to do so.
"And today, in our city, the flags are flying at half-staff to honor John.
"It's our simple, moving, and probably insufficient way of expressing our sorrow, and our profound respect. Because over the past few days, New Yorkers in all five boroughs have learned what everyone here today has known for a very long time: that Lieutenant John Martinson was a hero who never gave a second thought about putting himself in harm's way to protect the rest of us.
"He showed that during four years of distinguished service as a decorated member of New York's Finest and then every single day for nearly 15 years, as he followed in his father John's footsteps as one of our Bravest.
"And so on behalf of eight and a quarter million New Yorkers, let me extend my deepest condolences, and also my heartfelt thanks. Thanks to you and your brother who are teachers. This is a family of public servants. They're the ones that make our city better. And they're the ones that give hope to our children.
"I didn't know John. I saw his picture, saw him in the hospital. He was the kind of man who everybody says didn't mistake bluster for bravery. He was, as one man who worked with him said, never one to swagger or be 'chesty.'
"Around the firehouse, he had what another firefighter described as a 'big Teddy bear' personality. 'Johnny Nice Guy' was his Fire Department nickname and he was as quick with a smile as he was with a wrench or with a hammer. And he was likely to be the first one to point out to others just how blessed he had been with an over-sized set of ears. But when a fire alarm sounded, he was also the first man on the rig, and the first one ready for action.
"Throughout his career, John continually sought out demanding assignments in busy firehouses. He studied hard, learned his profession thoroughly, and modeled himself on the very best of the Bravest.
"And once he earned the rank of lieutenant, he joined Captain Reilly at Engine 249, he didn't let his easygoing manner get in the way of communicating to every firehouse- firefighter on his watch that they always had to do their best, because, as he reminded them, 'people's lives depend on you.'
"Last Thursday night, John took all his experience and skill, and all his devotion to duty and his quiet, no-nonsense bravery, from the bitter cold of the Brooklyn streets into the blast-furnace heat of a high-rise fire.
"In the best tradition of the world's greatest fire department, he led from the front. He found the source of the blaze; he directed a step-by-forward-step-attack against it through the dense smoke; and when the men in his command were forced to fall back, he ensured that every one of them went out first and escaped safely.
"As we all know, sadly, he forfeited his own life in saving the lives of his men, as well as the lives of the roughly 1,000 residents of the building, who got out safely.
"That kind of courage fills us all with the deepest awe and admiration. And it takes nothing away from the valor that John showed that night - and showed throughout his entire career - to also point out that he was a hero in everyday life, as well.
"He was the neighbor who you could call upon to fix your brakes if the car wasn't working. He was the devoted uncle who was always ready to take his niece and nephews out on the Iris Ann, The boat that his father bought and named for you, Iris, and that kept John- John kept in the family as a measure of his love for both his parents.
"He was the kind of son who, after his father's passing, moved next door to his mother, so that there'd be someone to make sure that her lawn was tended and the storm windows were put up. I hope he did it right, I would assume so.
"And when, Jessica, you and John began to have children of your own, he devoted his days off to renovating and expanding the same home, built so long ago, you should know, by his Swedish immigrant grandfather Otto, with his own hands.
"John belonged to a very tight-knit family with roots that go back for generations in this community. I'm told that this past Christmas was the first in many years when everyone's busy schedule permitted everyone, including John, to get together. I know that now your hearts are heavy with grief but at least you did have that Christmas day with John. But I also hope that in the years to come, you'll also remember that time as a blessing because at least you had it.
"Each of you, and especially you, Jessica, will face tremendous challenges now that your John is gone. But you won't have to meet them alone. The Fire Department is a family - one that takes care of its own. And you have John Patrick and in a few months you'll have another child which is a part of John.
"They've been by your side, the Fire Department, and John Patrick, throughout these terrible days and they will continue to be with you every step of the way. And Jessica, in the years to come, when your children ask about their father, I hope you'll remember to tell them that the people of New York feel the same way about him that you do: Lieutenant John Martinson was a hero who gave his life to protect the greatest city in the world.
"He gave his life to protect my children and your children and we should all be eternally grateful for him; for the example that he set and for the sacrifice that he made.
"We will never forget him and he will live on, not just in his children, but in the tradition of the world's greatest fire department which sadly, we all know, will be called on many times in the future to save the rest of us.
"May God bless the soul of this extraordinarily good man. A man who we're very proud of, your brother; you have every reason to be. And I just wanted to thank you for the service that you provide to this city as well. And may God bless those who will always carry John's memories in their heart. And may God bless the FDNY."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958