Honoring heroes at Living Flame Memorial

Phil­adelphia hon­ors its fallen fire­fight­ers and po­lice of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Lt. Robert Neary and fire­man Daniel Sweeney, dur­ing the Liv­ing Flame Me­mori­al.

It was a gray and over­cast Wed­nes­day when city of­fi­cials joined po­lice and fire of­fi­cials - as well as hun­dreds of emer­gency re­spon­ders - in a somber event at the Liv­ing Flame Me­mori­al in Frank­lin Square, at 6th and Race streets.

The an­nu­al event, which took place on May 2 this year, hon­ors all po­lice fire­fight­ers and emer­gency re­spon­ders who have died in ser­vice to the city.

Just two days pri­or to last Wed­nes­day’s me­mori­al, the names of Lt. Robert Neary and Daniel Sweeney – fire­fight­ers from Kens­ing­ton’s Lad­der 10, who died fight­ing the fire that tore through the Thomas H. Buck Ho­siery build­ing at York and Jasper streets on April 9 – joined the nearly 500 names of the men and wo­men me­mori­al­ized there.

Dur­ing the day, Ever­ett Gil­lis­on, deputy may­or of pub­lic safety and May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter’s chief of staff, said that the me­mori­al in­ten­ded to re­mem­ber all po­lice of­ficers and fire­fight­ers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

However, he also men­tioned that this year’s me­mori­al was “touched by the re­cent deaths” of Neary and Sweeney.

Gil­lis­on said both men had re­ceived cita­tions in the past, “all of them for sav­ing the lives of trapped people” in burn­ing build­ings.

“The biggest trib­ute we can give them is to live as they would,” said Gil­lis­on.

Lloyd Ay­ers, the city’s fire com­mis­sion­er, said that while every­one at the event was con­nec­ted to someone whose name is etched on the Liv­ing Flame Me­mori­al, those in at­tend­ance were not solely tied to­geth­er through tragedy.

“We all stand here con­nec­ted, not by their deaths, but by the pro­ductiv­ity and power in their lives,” he said. “The her­oes who lost their lives in the line of duty aren’t to be re­membered by the num­bers sur­round­ing their deaths…They aren’t to be re­membered by the stat­ist­ics sur­round­ing their deaths…They are to be re­membered by the self­less acts they did on and off duty.”

In his re­marks to the gathered crowd, May­or Nut­ter spe­cific­ally ad­dressed the re­l­at­ives of Sweeney and Neary, who were in at­tend­ance.

“We owe them a debt of grat­it­ude that can nev­er be fully re­paid,” he said of the two fallen fire­fight­ers. “It’s not how they died, but how they lived that made them her­oes…Here is where their ser­vice is re­membered. Here is where their sac­ri­fice is honored.”

Dur­ing the ser­vice, rep­res­ent­at­ives from a vari­ety of law en­force­ment and fire ser­vice agen­cies throughout the re­gion placed flower wreaths at the base of the Liv­ing Flame Me­mori­al, while friends and fam­il­ies of fallen po­lice of­ficers and fire­fight­ers took the time to read the names of their loved ones etched in­to plaques.

Each fam­ily mem­ber left a flower in memory of their loved one.

At the end of the event Di­anne Neary, wife of the fallen man who served as a fire­man for 37 years, took a mo­ment to speak to gathered re­port­ers about what the day meant to her and her fam­ily.

Call­ing the loss of her hus­band “ex­tremely tra­gic,” Neary’s wid­ow said that she hoped the dev­ast­at­ing events that took the lives of her hus­band and Sweeney would help the city to real­ize the im­port­ance fire­fight­ers’ work.

“I hope that the city will help them in any way that they can, so that they can do their job safer, so that they can go home to their fam­il­ies,” she said. “I now will have to go home with just memor­ies of my hus­band.”

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com.



You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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