By Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It is the portrait of a hero, at once inspirational and heartbreaking.
A picture of Philadelphia Fire Captain Mike Goodwin snapped moments before he led his crew into the burning building at 4th and Fitzwater Streets in South Philadelphia Saturday night. He would not return.
At noontime Tuesday, outside City Hall, the 29 year veteran firefighter’s widow, children and grandchildren gathered at a solemn memorial ceremony joining the families of Captain Robert Neary and firefighter Daniel Sweeney who died on this day- one year ago- buried beneath the collapsing wall of a burning Kensington warehouse.
Amid the playing of taps ,and the strains of bagpipes, Bill Gault, President of Local 22, the Firefighters’ Union, said “words couldn’t describe” the grief felt by everyone over the loss of the 3 firefighters.
Marian Sweeney, firefighter Sweeney’s mother, addressed the gathering of nearly 300 people, saying she “prayed someday” to be reunited with her son, who died on the couple’s 29th wedding anniversary.
Captain Neary’s widow, Diane, called for city officials to settle a long and bitter contract dispute, paying firefighters what they deserve.
Mayor Michael Nutter, calling the men heroes, said he would address financial issues at another time.
As the 20 minute memorial ended, Captain Goodwin’s grandson proudly pointed to his picture, like the image snapped as he was heading into the burning building Saturday night, a painful reminder of the brave firefighter who died protecting his city.
The viewing for the Captain, who is being promoted posthumously to battalion chief, is set for Wednesday.