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Middle Village 9/11 hero laid to rest, mayor attends

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Speaking in subdued tones that at times were hardly audible, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood in a Middle Village church sanctuary Saturday and gave thanks for the life of a fireman he had never met.

“I did not know your son,” Bloomberg told the parents of Lt. Kevin Pfeifer, an 11-year veteran of the Fire Department from Middle Village who died in the World Trade Center Sept. 11.

But after remarking on the motto that hangs along the flat brick face of St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church – “Serving God and the community since 1860” – Bloomberg drew a parallel to the sacrifice Pfeifer made for the city.

“On behalf of all of the people of New York City, all we can say is thank you for giving us Kevin,” he said.

Bloomberg received a sustained round of applause after his brief remarks, his first appearance at a firefighter’s funeral since taking office Jan. 1.

Although Bloomberg was sharply criticized in the media last week for his failure to attend any FDNY memorial services, Pfeifer’s elder brother Joseph – himself an FDNY battalion chief – thanked Bloomberg when he stood at the pulpit immediately following the mayor.

“Your presence here and your support means a lot to us, my family and the Fire Department,” he said.

Pfeifer’s family and friends had already celebrated his life in a memorial service in November. But on Sunday, Feb. 3, the firefighter’s body was discovered amid the rubble of Ground Zero, and hundreds of mourners returned to St. Margaret’s Saturday to finally lay Pfeifer to rest.

His casket, wrapped in an American flag, was carried through the church’s narrow wooden doors and hoisted by firemen onto an FDNY rig, rising into full view on a motorized platform that hummed against a backdrop of silence.

Flanked by marching firefighters and the Emerald Society band, the casket-bearing rig joined another from his company, Engine 33, and two dark limousines as they drove slowly down 80th Street along a line of saluting firefighters. The procession then turned into the cemetery across the street, where it passed beneath the trees and faded from sight.

Joseph Pfeifer, who had seen the first plane crash and was the first chief to arrive on the scene, ordered firefighters to evacuate the North Tower once the South Tower collapsed.

Kevin Pfeifer, who was inside the North Tower, directed Engine 7 and other companies to safety by having them change stairwells when he realized the path they were following would lead them into falling debris. The firefighters of Engine 7 escaped 30 seconds before the building collapsed. Pfeifer did not make it.

Joseph Pfeifer, who last saw Kevin at a command post at the base of the towers, had been on hand to help remove his brother from the tomb of rubble where he had laid for five months.

Kevin’s older brother joined other rescuers as they “carried him through a field of twisted steel and twisted metal and up a hill,” he recalled during his eulogy. He then boarded the ambulance and sat by Kevin’s side as it pulled away from Ground Zero.

“After a lot of tears, just sitting there I remembered all the good times we had together,” Joseph Pfeifer recalled.

Bloomberg was joined at the funeral by a number of public officials, including Borough President Helen Marshall, City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village), state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), and state Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth).

In addition to his brother Joseph, Pfeifer is survived by his parents, Helen and William, and his sister Mary Ellen.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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