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Kew Gds. fireman’s body found at Twin Tower site

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For the second time in just over a month, family, friends and firefighters gathered at a small Kew Gardens church to celebrate the life of Firefighter Christopher Pickford, who was killed trying to rescue people from the World Trade Center Sept. 11.

On Dec. 8, when the 32-year-old Kew Gardens resident was still officially listed as missing, hundreds attended a memorial service at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection to honor Pickford, who had worked for Engine 201 in Brooklyn.

The firefighter’s body was recovered from the World Trade Center site on New Year’s Day and on Friday mourners returned to the stone church on 118th Street in Kew Gardens, where the Rev. Roy Warwell led a low-key funeral mass.

“It’s a little more real than the other time,” said Joe O’Neil, who lost Pickford and three other fellow firefighters from Engine 201 on Sept. 11. “You knew he was gone, but there was still a lingering doubt.”

The Fire Department’s Pipe and Drum Corps led a solemn processional down 118th Street that included a fire truck carrying Pickford’s coffin draped with an American flag.

As Pickford’s body was lifted from the truck, more than 100 uniformed firefighters lining the street and the entrance to the church stood in salute.

Pickford’s parents, Linda and Tom, his brother David, and his longtime girlfriend, Amy Whalley, sat in the front of a crowded church.

The funeral mass was more subdued than the earlier memorial service, which featured speakers who shared memories of Pickford and a CD-handout of songs recorded by his rock group .

Warwell was the lone speaker. “I remember hearing at the memorial service a few weeks ago that this was a man full of life,” he said.

Pickford, who worked with Engine 201 for about nine months, loved both music and fighting fires. At the December memorial service, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani recalled that Pickford enjoyed playing guitar.

Following the service, Pickford’s body was hoisted back onto the fire truck and taken to nearby Maple Grove Cemetery, where he was laid to rest.

As the body was taken away, firefighters from Engine 201 assembled outside the church. Despite the difficulty of attending a second ceremony for his friend, O’Neil said he was glad they found Pickford’s remains.

“It’s hard, but it brings finality to the whole thing,” he said. “His family has some place to visit now. I’m glad we found him for the family.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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