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Some were family, some were friends, some were neighbors, and some were folks who had read or heard about a hero they wanted to welcome home...and to say goodbye. Some really didn't know the hero, Henry A. Miller, Jr., when they walked up the pathway to St. Clare's, but, by the time his brother finished telling us about him, as did some others, everyone knew him, admired him, and loved him. Some, who had arrived early enough to go into the church to say prayers, were asked to leave the church in order for everyone to take part in the procession that would bring everyone together in that beautiful, holy place. The Piper Band had lined up around the corner, and the ladders from two companies had been extended fully, making a flag-draped arch across the boulevard. It was an inspiring sight to see the Stars and Stripes in a very strong breeze above and between those two huge fire trucks.
As the Piper Band began to play, many faces were moistened by a combination of tears and the rain that had begun to fall. Henry's family walked up the steps of the church reflecting the bravery of their loved one - one of our fallen heroes who had also been part of the family of the members of the Bravest, who were there representing the entire department.
The church echoed with the voice of a so soloist singing "Ave Maria, " and the congregation participated in the Mass. Letters were read from government officials who also sent representatives, and Borough President Claire Shulman was there in person. Mayor Giuliani's letter expressed his admiration for Henry and those others who paid the ultimate sacrifice trying to save others and to do the recovery work, and his own sincere regret that he could not attend. Previous to Sept. 11, Mayor Giuliani had always managed to attend every funeral for a fallen uniformed officer in order to show his profound respect. Now, however, so many were lost, all at once, that attendance at each service was not possible.
Among the speakers was Henry's brother, who helped us all celebrate the life of that very dedicated man who had been an often mischievous, sometimes impulsive, always loving youngster in Rosedale. We were told that at Christmas, Henry would get to the presents first. He could even open his brother's, play with them a little, and then re-wrap them, leaving them not always in the pristine condition they were meant to be.
When he was old enough to get a car, he would start a project and use the roof or the car as a work space. Called away for some urgent reason, he would forget about his own project, jump in the car, step on the gas and drive off, leaving a trail of this and that (one time, including his wallet).
He was happy to have found his calling as a firefighter. He always wanted to help people. He loved his family and living at home so much that his parents thought he'd be with them forever. But Henry met and fell in love with the woman he would make his wife. He loved her two children as his own, and they loved him as well.
Hearing all this, we all knew Henry A. Miller, Jr. was a very special man. We could feel his presence with us that day and I think everyone there wished we could have known him longer.
Henry, and all the others who were lost that day because of the dastardly deeds of some fanatics, now have a permanent place in our hearts and minds. We should all pray that somehow, some way, evil doers will be eliminated or their hearts changed so that we can all face a brighter future in a peaceful world.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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