Widow Takes City To Task After Another Firefighter's Death - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Widow Takes City To Task After Another Firefighter's Death

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Friends and families gathered with Philadelphia firefighters outside City Hall on Tuesday to remember three men who have lost their lives in the line of duty over the past year.

Members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 22 laid memorial wreaths outside Philadelphia's city hall at noon for Lt. Robert Neary, Firefighter Daniel Sweeney and Capt. Mike Goodwin.

Neary and Sweeney died last year while battling a warehouse blaze exactly one year ago in Kensington.

Goodwin died fighting Saturday's fire in Queen Village. Investigators still don't know what caused this weekend's fire. They're back at the scene to dig out the basement, where the flames may have started.

During Tuesday's service at City Hall, prayers were offered and flowers were given to the families.

But there was also some criticism of city leaders.

IAFF Local 22 President Bill Gault said "April has been a cruel month for Philadelphia's firefighters."

He mentioned last year's fire, then said, "Now, almost a year to the day, we have lost another hero, Capt. Mike Goodwin, a loving father, husband, grandfather and a true leader of men – and a guy we all loved."

Gault added, "Firefighters understand the incredible risk we assume when we enter this noble profession, but that doesn't make days like this any easier."

Speaking briefly was Goodwin's son, Michael Jr., who said, "On behalf of myself, my family, I'd like to say thank you for the constant support that everyone is showing us."

"Today we're here to honor three men who died as heroes, and that's how they should be celebrated, heroes," Goodwin said. "I say thank you or your constant support and prayers. Thanks for these rough days ahead."

Diane Neary, widow of the late Lt. Robert Neary, said it's been a tough year for her, but God has given her the strength to get through.

"He has supported me with this fireman brotherhood, who care and love one another," she said. "When they're hurting, I'm hurting. And when I'm hurting, they're hurting. I've never experienced anything like this before."

Neary went on to add, "I would ask that these firemen – I don't know how many more of these gentlemen have to die. I don't know how many more broken hearts – families and in the brotherhood – can be broken. I don't know when the city of Philadelphia will start, and stop, and think what these men deserve. They deserve support. They deserve not a pat on the back or some broken words. They need to be paid their full due."

Philly's firefighters haven't had a pay raise in nearly four years. An arbitrator granted them a new contract, which would give them a 3-percent raise. However, the city has appealed that award, claiming it cannot afford the deal.

Neary called for prayers to "soften hearts, show compassion, break hearts that are made of stone and ignorance," saying the firefighters should get raises along with more support.

"How many times can they walk into burning buildings?" the late lieutenant's widow asked. "We have all young men now that are coming out. They are afraid. They're scared. They don't want to die. I don't want them to die. You don't want them to die. If they die, or if they're afraid, your family's going to die. You know how hard it is for a fireman to carry a dead child down a ladder? Who is going to give them the push on the back and the encouragement? I know as a nurse … if I don't get a raise, I'm thinking to myself, 'What am I doing? Who cares, the job that I'm doing?' The morale has to be boosted, and people – you all know who you are – need to stop standing around idly and honor this fellowship of firemen."

Last to speak was Marian Sweeney, who lost her 25-year-old son in last year's fire.

After thanking those in attendance, Sweeney said, "It has been a difficult year. We've lost a son. We've lost one of my babies. And a mom should not lose a baby. … Thank you for all of the honors you gave him over the year. Please continue to pray for my husband and I as we struggle – we struggle to go on. And we look around the house, and there's something missing."

Sweeney said that they've prayed a lot for God's faith, support and a sign. And she said they seemed to get one this morning in the form of something her granddaughter said.

"That's what we cling to: We cling to the hope that someday we'll see Daniel, and that he'll be reunited with my husband, myself and our girls," she said. "And happy anniversary to my husband. My son died on our 29th wedding anniversary."

You can watch a video of all of the speakers' remarks in video clip above.

FOX 29 News is seeking comment from Mayor Michael Nutter's office. Reporter Dave Schratwieser will have more details in live reports on the FOX 29 News at 5 at 6.


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