Friday, June 22, 2007

Thanks, FDNY pipes & drums

New York bagpipe corps to join memorial to heroes
By Andy Paras, Warren Wise
The Post and Courier
Friday, June 22, 2007

The pipe and drum corps that played at each funeral for the 343 firefighters killed on 9/11 in New York will be called to duty today when the musicians play during a memorial service for the nine Charleston firefighters killed in Monday's furniture store blaze.

Thirty-five members of the New York City Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums bagpipe band took a 15-hour bus trip Thursday to be here for the 10 a.m. service. Band members are expected to be among 200 New York City firefighters at the memorial ceremony.

"In New York City, this is a significant part of the funeral," said Richard Fanning, a retired New York City deputy fire chief with more than 31 years of firefighting experience. " 'Amazing Grace' is played. The concluding tune as the hearses are led away is a traditional Irish pipe tune called 'Going Home.' ... We hope it will add some sense of comfort to the firefighters and their families."

Fanning, who now lives in Bluffton, is not part of the band but is working with the South Carolina State Firefighters Association to coordinate today's events.

"These disasters rip the hearts and souls out of fire departments," Fanning said. "It will be a long-lasting tragedy. It leaves holes in a lot of lives. It will take a lot of strength and a lot of support to keep everybody moving in a positive direction."

The New York firefighters tried to get flights to Charleston but could not make arrangements on short notice, so a North Charleston business executive paid for their trip.

"If they were willing to endure a 15-hour bus ride, the expense was an afterthought," said Grant Reeves, president of PBI Performance Products Inc. of North Charleston. The company makes a flame-retardant fiber used in the outer shell of firefighters' gear such as jackets, pants and hoods.

Nicholas Giordano Jr., who retired as a New York City firefighter a year after the 2001 attacks, said the Charleston and New York fire departments have ties going back nearly 30 years, when two 18-year-olds who wanted to join the Charleston department went to the Bronx to see how it was done.

Those two teens who went on calls with Giordano later became battalion chiefs in Charleston.

The relationship between the departments just grew, Giordano said. "There's always that brotherhood of firefighters. They were always there to help us out, and that's why we drove all the way down here to help them out."

Several Charleston firefighters went to New York to help after Giordano's station lost eight firefighters in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Giordano said New York firefighters have been visiting Myrtle Beach since 2002 for an annual golf outing. The Charleston firefighters cook the steaks.

He got to know Capt. Louis Mulkey, who died in Monday's blaze, and several others through the cookouts.

"It's just a big tragedy," Giordano said. "For Charleston, losing nine firefighters is tantamount to New York losing the large number we did."

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