By Michelle Durham
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a tragedy that shook the city of Philadelphia: the loss of two firefighters in a wall collapse during a massive warehouse fire in Kensington.
On Monday, April 9th, 2012, the Philadelphia Fire Department announced that firefighter Daniel Sweeney and lieutenant Robert Neary had perished in the blaze (see news story).
And in the hours that followed, fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers described the struggle to cope with the loss.
“It hits you a little bit at a time,” he said, “trying to feel and understand that this is really happening.”
Bill Gault, president of firefighters’ union Local 22, said he was grieving and helping to make funeral arrangements at the same time.
“We blocked out most of the hotels we could get,” Gault said. “We have the (union) hall set up, and we have the FOP lounge if we need it.”
In the days that followed, those who knew the two fallen firefighters stepped forward to remember as the city grieved. Chris Seifert had gone to Bishop McDevitt High School with Dan Sweeney.
“He was just so passionate about being a firefighter,” Seifert recalled.
Many tears were shed at a funeral that drew firefighters from all over the country along with citizens who brought their children so they could see what heroes look like.