Ceremony for firefighters commemorates ultimate sacrifice

Hun­dreds of fire­fight­ers and res­id­ents gathered in solid­ar­ity in Port Rich­mond last Wed­nes­day even­ing to hon­or Fire Capt. John Taylor and fire­fight­er Rey Ru­bio for giv­ing the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice ex­actly 10 years ago.

Sta­tioned at En­gine 28, 2520 E. Ontario St., Taylor and Ru­bio per­ished on the even­ing of Aug. 20, 2004, while re­spond­ing to a one-alarm fire in a rowhome on the 3600 block of Bel­grade St. The base­ment blaze was caused by the com­bus­tion of equip­ment and plants of a small-scale marijuana-grow­ing op­er­a­tion.

Sponsored by Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic As­so­ci­ation (PRO­PAC), the 10th an­niversary me­mori­al com­menced feet away from the site of the fire with the bless­ing of a buck­et of carna­tions by the Rev. Ed Brady, pas­tor of St. Anne par­ish on Le­high Av­en­ue, and the re­cit­a­tion of the three car­din­al pray­ers of the ros­ary: “The Lord’s Pray­er,” “Hail Mary” and “Glory Be.”

Red, gold, and black bows blew in the breeze, and the sound of bag­pipes from the Phil­adelphia Po­lice and Fire Pipe and Drums filled the air as the crowd, flanked by fire trucks, then pro­cessed to En­gine 28.

Patty-Pat Kozlowski, former pres­id­ent and cur­rent ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of PRO­PAC, spoke about the his­tory of the in­cid­ent and the com­munity’s con­stant ap­pre­ci­ation for the fire­fight­ers’ ser­vice.

Al­lud­ing to in­cid­ents where the ac­tions of fire­fight­ers have been ques­tioned in oth­er neigh­bor­hoods, Kozlowski said Port Rich­mond calls its fire­fight­ers “her­oes.”

“We are Port Rich­mond, where we have more church steeples and play­grounds than the rest of the city,” Kozlowski said. “Taylor and Ru­bio were our guys, our her­oes. Taylor and Ru­bio are ours. We are Port Rich­mond, and En­gine 28 is ours.”

Stand­ing with Ken Paul, pres­id­ent of PRO­PAC, and Mary­ann Trombetta, pres­id­ent of Port Rich­mond Town Watch, Kozlowski was fol­lowed in speech by Capt. James Wil­li­am­son of En­gine 28.

“[Taylor and Ru­bio] were where they were sup­posed to be and do­ing what they were sup­posed to do and as a res­ult of that, they died her­oes,” Wil­li­am­son said, “and in a com­munity like this, I know their memor­ies will live forever.”

Rev. Brady led the crowd in one fi­nal pray­er, “The Fire­fight­ers’ Pray­er” — the pray­er in­scribed on the stone me­mori­al in­stalled at En­gine 28 in 2005 for all five fire­fight­ers of the fire­house who have per­ished in the line of duty — be­fore res­id­ents of the 3600 block of Bel­grade and the fam­ily of Taylor laid wreaths in front of the me­mori­al.

A stream of fire­fight­ers and oth­er com­munity mem­bers fol­lowed, each lay­ing a single flower at the stone.

After the ce­re­mony, the crowd, in­clud­ing Taylor’s fam­ily, was in­vited in­to En­gine 28 for re­fresh­ments.

Lauren Taylor, 29, the daugh­ter of Taylor, said after the ce­re­mony that the fam­ily was very honored and felt re­spec­ted that the com­munity still re­membered her fath­er.

“It really shows what a broth­er­hood the fire­fight­ers are,” said Vir­gin­ia Stock, 70, the sis­ter of Taylor. “Johnny loved the Fire De­part­ment and he would be really proud of what they and the com­munity did here today.”

What star­ted as a simple bow ini­ti­at­ive – mem­bers of PRO­PAC went door-to-door selling bows from Jean’s Crafts to res­id­ents to hon­or the fire­fight­ers – quickly grew to the lar­ger ce­re­mony that con­cluded just be­fore the rain began to fall.

“[PRO­PAC] wanted every­one to have the bow and then it be­came big­ger than that,” Paul said. “People tend to for­get and we wanted to me­mori­al­ize [the an­niversary]. We just didn’t want to for­get about them and the sac­ri­fices they made for this neigh­bor­hood.” ••

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