WALLINGTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of firefighters said goodbye to one of their own who died in the line of duty in New Jersey.
Firefighters from across the region, some from as far away as Canada, lined the streets Friday for the funeral of Capt. Gregory Barnas in Wallington.
It began with a solemn procession of Barnas’ flag-draped casket from the funeral home to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Church.
“It goes without saying that we truly lost someone who was a wonderful human being,” East Rutherford Police Chief Larry Minda said.
“It’s such a great loss,” Jersey City Fire Deputy Chief Joseph Zieja told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell. “You really feel it in your heart.”
Barnas was a 29-year veteran of the Jersey City Fire Department. He was also a 40-year volunteer with the Wallington Fire Department and served as chief in Wallington in 1997.
“It was absolutely his life. I don’t know how many people work 40 hours a week and then to serve in his own hometown as a volunteer,” Zieja said. “Greg was beyond the average dedicated fire captain. He was really respected and loved.”
The 57-year-old died after he fell from the roof while battling a fire at Wallington restaurant last Friday. His Jersey City colleagues got the news as they were battling another massive fire at a city mosque.
“My heart is broken,” Jersey City Fire Chief Darren Rivers said.
Barnas’ two sons are also firefighters. They were both there tackling the fire in Wallington alongside their dad when he died.
Those who knew the elder Barnas best say this is the way he would have wanted to go, doing what he loved.
“Greg grew up being that kid in grammar school who always wanted to raise his hand and help other people and that just exemplified his entire life,” Minda said.
“They don’t make them like that anymore,” retired Jersey City firefighter Phil Germain told CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes. “He was really dedicated, overboard in dedication, for the department.”
“Everyone loved him,” Zieja said. “He loved the job and he lived his life the way he wanted to.”
During Barnas’ homily, the priest said we so often look to heroes who are in the public eye or in history. But so many of them are living and working quietly among us. And Barnas was that kind of hero.
At the end of his funeral, Barnas’ wife and sons were presented with their father’s helmet as a symbol of his sacrifice.
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