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. ••