FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 26, 2008
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR FDNY LIEUTENANT ROBERT RYAN
The following are Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered:
“Thank you Reverend Jerome, Cardinal Egan, Commissioner Scoppetta, Chief Cassano, Chief McNally, members of Engine 155, Congressman Fossella, Borough President Molinaro, and particularly family and friends of Bobby Ryan. I was standing outside in the lineup and realized this is the second Fire Department funeral that I’ve been at in as many weeks. Jamel Sears was a firefighter who died a few weeks ago. And in my seven years in public service I’ve been to too many funerals. They’re always moving, they don’t get any easier to go to and they certainly don’t get any less solemn. And there’s something uplifting about it when the pipes and drums come by and you look at all of the firefighters lined up, thousands upon thousands of them, to pay their respects.
“And what was different about this one this morning was I noticed Engine 155, Bobby’s engine, came by first. And on the windshield they had ‘In memory of Robert J. Ryan Jr.’ And I don’t know why I had the thought but I thought if I could get into that cab and take a razor blade and just scrape that off, somehow or other Bobby would magically reappear back in his firehouse, leading his men, protecting all of us. And then I realized I can’t do that. His Eminence, a very powerful guy, but he can’t do that. Jack McDonald, the union leader, of the UFOA, Bobby’s union, he can’t do that and he is really a powerful guy. Nobody can do that.
“This Fire Department is going to have to make do without Bobby and they will promote others and they will continue to build on everything that Bobby and others who have given their lives, who are gone from this department and retired, contributed. And the Department keeps getting stronger and stronger.
“What’s particularly poignant about today is not today but tomorrow. Tomorrow is a day of thanks, Thanksgiving. For most of us it’s turkey and cranberry sauce and football. And what I like about Thanksgiving the best is it’s family pulling together. Other holidays people tend to go away, split up. This is a holiday where people come together. And yet the Ryan family, as we know, is not going to be together, not as together as they’d like to be anyway. And I’m going to sit down at my Thanksgiving dinner, and I assume all of you will. And in some senses we’re going to have a good time; we’re going to enjoy things, we’re going to say thanks.
“But it is, especially this year, a little bit difficult to count your blessings when you’ve lost somebody that made so much of a difference in this city, whether you knew Bobby or not. But I will urge all of you to have a smile on your face and to be thankful because there is something to give thanks for and that is we were lucky enough to have Bobby Ryan on this earth protecting our City, even if the time that he had here was much too short.
“The FDNY– the greatest fire department in the world – was built by strong, honest, dedicated men like Bobby – men with an inherent sense of right and wrong, men who lead by example, men who are always the first ones in and the last ones out; men whom others looked to in the dark days after something like 9/11 and who helped rebuild firehouses devastated by so much loss. Lieutenant Bobby Ryan was a leader, a fighter, a teacher, a father figure to all of us – and we are more grateful than we can ever say.
“I actually got the chance to speak with Bobby a few years ago – right after he was severely injured while fighting a fire in Brooklyn. He could have retired then because of those injuries and no one would have blamed him for it. But it was clear that you could never take the firefighter out of Bobby. Bobby’s love for the job and for this City was just too big. In the end, it took him a full year to recover. And during the course of his rehabilitation, he assumed another mission: raising money for the hospital burn center where he was treated. (Just when you thought his heart couldn’t get any bigger.)
“Bobby Ryan was a walking, talking billboard for the best of the FDNY, and also the best of Staten Island, which is home to many of our City’s firefighters and police officers and other municipal workers, particularly so many of whom had laid down their lives to protect us. I would urge you to go to the Staten Island Memorial to 9/11 down in St. George by the ferry. And just look at the names on the wall and the number of times the letters FDNY appear after the names is really quite startling. And it makes you realize how much this borough contributes to our City.
“Bobby was held in such high esteem by so many people that I won’t even think of mentioning his awful singing voice or how he’d sing along to everything on the stereo – be it Mozart, Country, or his latest favorite, Christian rock. I won’t even talk about his habit of giving his friends ‘birthday punches’ – one jab in the arm for every year you’ve been around. That’s not much fun when you’re turning 45, I’m glad I didn’t stop by the firehouse when I became 65. And I certainly won’t bring up the nickname some of his friends gave him – ‘Doctor Evil’ – because of his resemblance to the bald-headed bad guy in Austin Powers.
“For Bobby, there was only one thing that topped his love of the job – and that was his family. He loved all of you. He saw so much of Chris in himself. He loved going with you to the Mets game and in recent years you traveled to ballparks all around the country. Are you a good player? What do you play? Pitcher? Left handed or right handed? Righty. OK anybody needing a right handed pitcher, right here in the front row. He was endlessly devoted to Kayla. During those first few difficult months when you were born, hardly anything could keep him from spending the night in the hospital bed, sitting by your side. You probably don’t remember that but he was there. Kayla recovered well; she’s obviously a fighter – just like her dad. And in recent years Bobby’s proudest moments were taking you to your school’s father-daughter dance. Was it fun dancing with Daddy? Yeah. And then, when Bobby married Kathleen, he was blessed with two beautiful, additional members of the family – Alex and Emma – whom he embraced as his own. He was – as one friend said – father of the year, every year.
“Kathleen: I can only imagine how difficult this is for you but as you also know, the FDNY really is a family and they always take care of their own. You were there for Bobby during his toughest days, helping nurse him back to health and we will be there for you for as long as you need us.
“Chris, Kayla, Alex, Emma: Bobby loved you all so much and even though he’s gone, his love for you remains as clear as ever. And when you’re doing well in school – and Chris, when you take the mound next year in college – you’ll be doing what he would have wanted you to do. You’ll be making him very happy. He doesn’t want tears all the time. He wants tears today maybe but you get over those and you build. That’s what he would want for you.
“Carol: No parent should ever have to sit where you are, it’s just not the natural order of things. You talked about that. I just hope that you can take some comfort in the fact that Bobby died doing exactly what he wanted to do – something he was born to do, something you trained him to do.
“When something as awful as this happens, a part of us always asks, why? Why does it happen to such a good man? We probably will never know the answer – but we can make sure we learn from this tragedy and prevent others from getting similarly hurt. In that way, we can turn a terrible moment into something positive. Taking the bad, and turning it into something good; that was Bobby. He made this world a far better place – and now his faith has carried him home, to a far better place.
“The way Bobby lived life reminds me of a prayer that I think I’ve heard Cardinal Egan say, it’s the Prayer of St. Francis. I’m sure many here know it, and I’ll just recite the ending, because I thought it really was appropriate here.
O Divine Master,
For it is in giving that we receive…
“May God bless Bobby Ryan. And may we be truly thankful
that we had him for a brief time. God bless.”
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958