FDNY firefighter Steven Pollard — who fell to his death off a bridge in Brooklyn during a trapped motorist’s highway rescue — was memorialized Friday as a rookie firefighter who died carrying on a family tradition.
Hundreds of firefighters mourned inside Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Church, including his firefighter brother and retired firefighter father. Thousands more who couldn’t fit in the pews stood outside in the Marine Park neighborhood in the 27-degree cold — from the city, Long Island, Boston, Milwaukee, Sacramento and beyond — to hear on a loudspeaker the funeral of Pollard, the 1,151st FDNY member to die in the line of duty.
“When I look at this good family, I'm reminded what it takes for people to make that choice to serve: It takes faith, it takes a love for your fellow human, it takes a sense that you're not alone,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a eulogy, inviting applause for Pollard’s father, who is retired from Bedford-Stuyvesant's Ladder Company 102, and his brother, who is assigned to Sunset Park's Ladder Company 114, and the loved ones who support the men.
“We are blessed that this family is part of this community," said de Blasio, who attended the service in the Spanish Mission-style church with his wife, Chirlane McCray.
Pollard, 30, died Sunday from injuries he sustained in a fall of more than 50 feet off the Belt Parkway’s Mill Basin Bridge while responding to a car crash, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the night Pollard died. The parkway's east and westbound lanes are separated by a gap, and Pollard fell while trying to cross the roughly two-foot gap to reach a crashed car that had flipped over with someone inside, Nigro said.
"Bravery was in his blood,” Nigro said in a eulogy.
The department’s investigation remains unfinished into the circumstances of Pollard’s death, Jim Long, an FDNY spokesman, said Friday morning before the ceremony.
The homily delivered by Msgr. John Delendick, an FDNY chaplain, likened mourners’ questions over Pollard's death to Martha of Bethany’s biblical pleas to Jesus before her brother Lazarus was resurrected.
"Jesus, where were you? If you were there, maybe Steven would not have died. Maybe Steven would not have fallen, if you were there?" But, the monsignor said, Pollard "has found eternal life.”
Pollard’s funeral was marked by FDNY tradition bestowed upon those who die in the line of duty: taps, pipes and drums, white-gloved salutes, a helicopter flyover, a firetruck carrying the flag-draped coffin, and the presentation of his helmet to the family.
Before joining the FDNY, Pollard worked for JetBlue on the tarmac at Kennedy Airport and for Con Ed, his childhood friend William Morch said in a eulogy.
Morch said Pollard, whom he met when they were kids, was the blue-eyed boy who had the best snacks, later the avid fisherman who loved sea bass, the home run derby player who jammed to 92.3 K-Rock, the ice hockey and roller skater, and his friends’ “chick magnet” who would sprint home after having a few drinks.
At his firehouse, Pollard, who joined the FDNY June 12, 2017, was “a gentle man who was strong as an ox,” a strapping firefighter too shy to be Santa Claus who squeezed into a reindeer onesie for the firehouse Christmas party, but "when it came to fire duty, Steve showed no fear,” said Timothy Klein, a firefighter at Pollard’s Ladder 170, in a eulogy.
"We lost a true hero that night,” Klein said. “Stevie, it breaks my heart to know the days working alongside you are over.”
Klein, addressing Pollard’s mother, father and brother, said: "Our firehouse door will always be open to the three of you."
A man whom Pollard had been trying to save was sobbing at the funeral, said Councilman Joe Borelli of Staten Island, who said he sat in front of the man.
“It’s important, I think, for the city to remind the Pollard family who’s given so much through two generations that we stand in solidarity with them, and in communal mourning with them,” Borelli, the council’s Committee on Fire and Emergency Management chairman, said after the funeral. “And I think it’s important for us to just take a moment and reflect on a life given for someone, one of his neighbors."
On Friday afternoon, Pollard's remains were carried from the church to a firetruck repurposed as a hearse, then on a final trip through his childhood neighborhood.
Pollard, Long said, is to be cremated.