NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Firefighters from across the country traveled to Staten Island on Thursday to pay their final respects to Lt. Gordon “Matt” Ambelas.
Thousands of firefighters from as far away as St. Louis, Philadelphia, Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, came to honor Ambelas, the first FDNY firefighter to die in the line of duty in more than two years.
Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered the eulogy at Ambelas’ funeral. He said Ambelas was dedicated, hardworking, kind and, above all, a family man.
“All members of the FDNY — but really all New Yorkers — are feeling this moment with pain and sadness because we’ve lost a true hero,” de Blasio said. “Our city is inspired by his courage and deeply saddened by his loss.”
Thousands and thousands of white-gloved hands were raised in salute as Ambelas’ casket covered in a Fire Department flag was brought out from The Church of St. Clare in Great Kills, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
The 40-year-old married father of two young daughters, Gabriella and Giovanna, died from smoke inhalation and burns late Saturday while searching for possible victims on the 19th floor at the Independence Towers apartment complex in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“As smoke and flames poured out of the 19th floor from a two-alarm fire, Matt’s only thoughts were for the safety of others,” de Blasio said. “He led from the front, as great leaders do — as he always did – and then, very tragically, made the ultimate sacrifice.”