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City honors FDNY victim in street renaming

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More than 200 people gathered on the corner of 122nd Street and Hillside Avenue in Kew Gardens last week as City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) led a ceremony to rename the 122nd Street block between 85th Avenue and Hillside Avenue in honor of Firefighter Christopher J. Pickford, who died Sept. 11.

Katz was joined by Pickford’s mother, Linda, and two of his former bosses, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and the captain of Brooklyn’s Engine Company 201, Luke Lynch, to commemorate Pickford at the ceremony.

A lifelong Queens resident, Pickford died at age 32 when Tower 2 of the World Trade Center collapsed. He grew up on the block which now bears his name, and his parents still live there.

“This is a mixed blessing type of occasion,” Katz said. “There are very few ways to thank the families who lost people on 9/11 and it just so happens that I happened to have been in a position to actually do something in some real small and very humble way to thank and honor a firefighter who lost his life on 9/11.”

Family and public officials attended the ceremony along with the Fire Department’s Engine Co. 287, Squad 270, Division 13, and the two companies for which Pickford worked in his 18 months as a firefighter, Ladder Co. 136 of Queens and Engine Co. 201 of Brooklyn.

Katz saluted Pickford, also a guitarist and writer, as a man who lived life to its fullest.

“This guy, if you knew Firefighter Christopher J. Pickford, he knew how to live life,” Katz said. “So it is my hope that (the street naming) becomes a celebration of his life as well as a memory of what happened.”

His former bosses remembered Pickford as a caring man who let nothing get in the way of serving his community.

“Chris sought only to help others,” Brown said. “And when the call came, he ran toward it, not from it, so he could help others survive.”

Lynch shared a story that he said personifies Pickford’s selfless dedication to others. He spoke of how Pickford responded to a four-fatality car accident by not allowing the horrifying circumstances to faze him as he rushed in to try to help the victims.

“I was shocked at the scene and Chris didn’t hesitate,” Lynch said. “When we got back to quarters that night, I realized that I had a special gem. I had a good kid here, and I knew that he would always be front and center.”

Katz also took time at the ceremony to ask attendees to think of the families of each person who died in the attack and remember that while many firefighters and police officers were lost, so many civilians — parents, siblings and children — also died. She also commended the large family of New York City’s Fire Department.

“This is one of the great big families, the firefighters of the city of New York,” she said, explaining how firefighters throughout the country rallied to aid New York’s fallen. “And that’s a great tribute to our Fire Department.”

To conclude the ceremony, Katz, along with Pickford’s immediate family, tore off the brown paper wrapping which covered the new street sign, and the block officially became Firefighter Christopher J. Pickford Street.

“As time goes on and we commemorate 9/11,” Katz said, “everyone would do well to remember these were family members, and as we celebrate their lives we commemorate their deaths.”

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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