Meridian firefighters say farewell to fallen brothers
FAREWELL n Grieving family members follow the funeral procession down Fifth Avenue. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Nov. 6, 2001
NEW YORK Meridian firefighters found themselves among thousands of their brothers Monday as they paid tribute to two members of the New York Fire Department who lost their lives Sept. 11.
Firefighters from Boston to California saluted Michael Boyle and David Arce during a funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Meridian Fire Chief Bunky Partridge, his wife, Dianne, firefighter Gerald Mabry and public relations officer Jimmy Hoffer cried as bagpipes led the procession.
The somber scene overwhelmed Dianne Partridge, the mother of two children and a firefighter's wife of 27 years, as she watched a mother carry her son's helmet in the Fifth Avenue procession.
Meridian firefighters attended the funeral on the last day of their trip to New York and Ground Zero.
The delegation left Meridian on Friday with a mission to deliver nearly $25,000 in donations and gifts to families of firefighters killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that leveled the World Trade Center. The group returns home today.
President shares words
After a funeral mass for thousands of mourners, a letter from President Bush was read. His words offered hope that sadness and pain would be replaced by an enduring gratefulness, love and respect.
The two firefighters' ashes, covered by wreaths, were then carried down Fifth Avenue, followed by the families. Thousands of people stood motionless and silent as they watched the grieving families pass.
Beside a line of firefighters, a boy of about 10 saluted as the families passed. On the other side of Fifth Avenue, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stood solemn with his hand covering his heart.
The funeral is one of many Giuliani has attended and will continue to attend.
Mabry, his mind replaying the destruction of the World Trade Center's twin towers, stood among flags in front of the Fifth Avenue cathedral and saluted the fallen New York firefighters.
After the service a fellow firefighter turned to Mabry and asked where he was from. Mabry said he is a professional firefighter from Meridian.
Partridge felt welcome
Fire Chief Bunky Partridge was welcomed into the cathedral by a New York battalion chief.
The battalion chief had been a lifelong friend to Boyle and Arce, who grew up together.
Hoffer joined the mass inside the cathedral. Outside, on the steps of the cathedral, his grief gave way to tears.
Partridge had trouble finding words.