Northeast Times

Sorrow, loss felt on anniversary of firefighters’ deaths

  • In remembrance: Firefighters and family members attended a ceremony honoring Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney outside the firehouse at Castor and Kensington avenues on April 9 to mark the second anniversary of their deaths. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • In remembrance: Family members attended a ceremony honoring Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney outside the firehouse at Castor and Kensington avenues on April 9 to mark the second anniversary of their deaths.

  • Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers spoke during the ceremony.

There was only some si­lence in their sad­ness.

In dress blue rows, fire­fight­ers stood quietly out­side the fire­house at Castor and Kens­ing­ton av­en­ues on April 9 to mark the second an­niversary of the deaths of two of their own.

But the city that Lt. Robert Neary and Fire­fight­er Daniel Sweeney served is not a sol­emn place. The roar of trucks on Castor Av­en­ue drowned out pray­ers and speeches, and the rumble of the El over­head de­feated even the wails of bag­pipes and the tolling of a bell.

Still, out­side the Lad­der 10-En­gine 7 fire­house, the blue lines stood noise­lessly last week, their pres­ence testi­fy­ing to a loss keenly felt.

On April 9, 2012, Neary, 60, and Sweeney, 25, of Lad­der 10 went in­to a Kens­ing­ton Av­en­ue fur­niture store to battle a blaze that had spread from a lar­ger one in the old and va­cant Buck Ho­siery Co. at Jasper and York streets. It is there they per­ished when a wall col­lapsed. A met­al plaque placed out­side the fire­house was ded­ic­ated dur­ing the April 9 ce­re­mon­ies to serve as a per­man­ent re­mind­er of their sac­ri­fice.

Robert Neary was a 38-year Fire De­part­ment vet­er­an. He is sur­vived by his wife, Di­ane, and three chil­dren, Robert, Chris­toph­er and Di­anne. Daniel Sweeney, the son of re­tired Fire Capt. Dav­id Sweeney, is also sur­vived by his moth­er, Mari­an, and sis­ters Su­z­anne, Sarah and De­borah, and his girl­friend, Kristen. He had joined the Fire De­part­ment in Ju­ly 2006.

Two oth­er fire­fight­ers, Fran­cis Chaney II, also of Lad­der 10, and Patrick Nally, of Lad­der 16, were in­jured in the five-alarm fire.

Dur­ing last week’s ce­re­mon­ies out­side the fire­house, uni­on pres­id­ent Joe Schulle was so choked up by emo­tion that he could not con­tin­ue and an­oth­er fire­man read his re­marks. Neary’s wid­ow, Di­ane, also began to weep as she ad­dressed the fire­fight­ers, po­lice and res­id­ents gathered in the street out­side the house.

Al­though words of sor­row were al­most im­possible to hear last week, an en­dur­ing grief could be felt, and per­haps no more in­tensely than when Taps was blown. Amaz­ing Grace was played on the bag­pipes, con­tinu­ing as one piper, still play­ing, walked alone around a fire truck, play­ing the fi­nal notes in solitude. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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