FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh presided over a plaque dedication ceremony in honor of firefighter Jesse Gerhard on Saturday at the firehouse where he served in Far Rockaway. Gerhard, from Long Island, died the day after fighting a fire in the Rockaways last winter. He suffered a medical episode while on duty in his firehouse. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin, FDNY

To help understand more about his son Jesse — an FDNY firefighter who died last year — Bruce Gerhard loaded YouTube.

“After his death, because of YouTube, I started listening to the eulogies and the plaque dedications of the previous men and women that passed this year, and it was just like you’re listening to the same thing over and over again. These people just gave their lives for something bigger than themselves,” the elder Gerhard said in tears Saturday morning in Far Rockaway at his son’s onetime firehouse, where the FDNY held a plaque dedication ceremony in his memory.

Jesse Gerhard, 33, of Islip and Long Beach, had collapsed Feb. 16, 2022, in the firehouse, of what the FDNY has described as "a medical episode" a day after fighting a house fire nearby.

Jesse Gerhard died last year at 33.

Jesse Gerhard died last year at 33. Credit: FDNY

"Signal 5-5-5-5," was written above his photo in Saturday's ceremony program, listing the transmission announcing line-of-duty deaths. 

Gerhard had been assigned to the “irons” position — the job of forcing doors open to gain entry to the structure and interior search areas.

The plaque — unveiled at Gerhard’s Ladder 134 firehouse at 16-17 Central Ave. — joins nearly identical tributes to those in firehouse history who have perished in the line of duty, including a firefighter named Emmett F. Donnelly, who died June 15, 1922, at 31. While out on a fire that destroyed a cottage, Donnelly was killed after a tall chimney fell and buried him under heaps of brick and timbers, according to an account in the Brooklyn Times Union newspaper. 

Among the tributes Bruce Gerhard watched on YouTube were to FDNY personnel such as Alison Russo, the 61-year-old paramedic from Huntington who was fatally stabbed in September while grabbing lunch in Astoria, Queens; and firefighter Billy Moon, 47, of Islip, who fell 20 feet and hit his head in December while preparing for a firehouse training drill in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He later died.

“They were all the same breed of people, and we’re gonna miss them all,” Bruce Gerhard said.

Encased in a display at Jesse Gerhard's firehouse are his firefighting jacket, helmet and pictures. The construction of similar tributes is underway on Long Island, to Gerhard and Moon, both Islip volunteer firefighters, said Owen McCaffrey, a commissioner, following Saturday’s ceremony.

A display honoring Gerhard at the Ladder 134 firehouse.

A display honoring Gerhard at the Ladder 134 firehouse. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Before friends and family headed over to The Saloon in Long Beach for a celebration of Gerhard, the plaque in Far Rockaway was sprinkled with holy water by a Catholic priest, department chaplain the Rev. Joseph Hoffman.

There also were remarks by John Hodgens, the chief of department; Dennis Tveter, a trustee of Gerhard’s labor union, the Uniformed Firefighters Association; Michael Ormiston, a firefighter from 134; and FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.

Kavanagh had been speaking about how Jesse “would love to lend a hand to anyone in need,” when one of his relatives in the audience, 20-month-old Matthew Smolyn, started crying loudly.

The commissioner paused.

“It’s OK,” she said. “We all feel the same way.”

A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: Newsday/Daddona / Pfost / Villa Loarca

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A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: Newsday/Daddona / Pfost / Villa Loarca

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