A Funeral for a Young Firefighter on the Cusp of ‘His Dream’
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Steven H. Pollard was supposed to receive the official order confirming his promotion to a full-fledged New York City firefighter this week.
After a year and a half as a probationary firefighter, the orange patch of a novice would have been replaced on his helmet with a crimson patch bearing his ladder company. A small change, perhaps, but a signifier that Mr. Pollard fully belonged to the ranks of New York’s Bravest.
Instead Mr. Pollard, who died Sunday at age 30 after falling 50 feet from a Brooklyn overpass, was buried Friday afternoon. His helmet, with the patch he never got to wear, was prominently displayed at his funeral. It was a potent symbol of a young firefighter at the start of a promising career when his life was cut tragically short.
As friends, family and colleagues mourned at the Good Shepherd Church in the Marine Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, Mr. Pollard’s helmet and coffin were carried past rows of firefighters in dress blues who lined block after block along the funeral route. They stood raptly at attention on a cold, windy January day, their white-gloved hands raised in salute.
Throughout the service, the helmet sat on a table next to the podium where those gathered, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Daniel A. Nigro, the New York City fire commissioner, took turns celebrating Mr. Pollard’s bravery and honoring his life.
At the end of the funeral, Mr. Pollard’s coffin, cloaked in the Fire Department’s flag, was carried to a fire engine. His helmet was given to his father, who himself spent 32 years as a firefighter.
On Sunday, Mr. Pollard’s company, Ladder 170 in Canarsie, responded to a two-car accident on the Belt Parkway’s Mill Basin Bridge in Brooklyn. The accident, which involved one car that had flipped, was on the bridge’s westbound lanes. Mr. Pollard arrived on the eastbound side.
The sides of the bridge are separated by a two-foot gap surrounded by three-foot-high concrete barriers. When Mr. Pollard tried to cross the breach, he fell through.
On the night he died, Mr. de Blasio said, Mr. Pollard did not hesitate: “He saw that someone needed help, he rushed forward, and in that instant he gave his life.”
Timothy Klein, a fellow firefighter who was with Mr. Pollard the night he died, grew emotional as he spoke Friday about the young man’s sacrifice.
“Steven Pollard died not thinking of himself, but trying to help others,” he said, his voice breaking. “We lost a true hero that night.”
Throughout the service, the speakers all noted that being a firefighter was Mr. Pollard’s childhood dream. It was a goal inspired in no small way by his father, Ray.
"Steve wanted nothing more than to follow in his footsteps,” William Morch, a childhood friend, said.
When Mr. Pollard finally entered the Fire Academy, following not just his father but also his older brother, an active firefighter with 11 years of service, it was clear that he had found his calling.
Friends “began to notice a new glow or light” in Mr. Pollard’s eyes as he started his career, Mr. Morch said. "He had achieved his dream.”
Mr. Pollard worked hard to pursue that goal. He had been given the nickname “Captain America” for his strength and his work ethic, and he put both to use during his time in the Fire Academy, which he graduated with outstanding marks, Mr. Nigro said.
During his short time as a firefighter, he was hard-working, inquisitive and dedicated, Mr. Nigro and Mr. Klein said.
“He worked so hard for this career to follow his father and his brother into the world’s greatest fire department,” Mr. Nigro said. “Bravery was in his blood.”
Mr. Pollard was the 1,151st New York City firefighter killed in the line of duty, officials said.