NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Firefighters were preparing Friday, to drape purple and black bunting on the firehouse in Queens where William Tolley served his 14 year career with the FDNY.
Tolley fell to his death while battling a fire in Queens. His friends said he had a passion to be a firefighter since he was a child, but he also had another passion — playing the drums.
Chris Pervelis choked back tears as he remembered his best friend.
“I can’t process it, I just can’t process it,” he told CBS2’s Jessica Moore.
Tolley was a lot of things to a lot of people, but to Pervelis, Tolley was just Bill.
“He was my best friend. He meant everything to me. He was always there for me, always whenever I had a problem I’d call and talk to him, and whenever he had a problem he’d call me. It was like we were brothers,” he said. “He was so talented. He had so much talent. It was such a passion of his to play drums and he loved it so much.”
Tolley and Pervelis started the death metal band ‘Internal Bleeding’ when they were just teenagers growing up on Long Island.
“Just to see him smiling behind the drum kit, just pounding away. He just loved it. He and I just clicked,” Pervelis said.
With Pervelis on the guitar and Tolley on the tubs, their connection was strong, but the bond they shared went far beyond the band.
“Every day I called Bill for the past 20 to 25 years, 8:55 on the nose, time to call Bill. And we would just laugh and laugh,” he said, “I don’t know how I’m going to go on at 8:55 tomorrow, because I don’t know how I’m going to go on without him.”
The band is set to release its latest single on Friday, and was preparing to go on tour at the end of May.
Pervelis remembers a ‘twist of fate’ conversation with Tolley just hours before his death.
“He said, ‘if I can’t do it, you guys gotta do it. Even if I can’t do it the band’s gotta do it,” Pervelis said.
The 14 year FDNY veteran leaves behind his wife Marie and 8-year-old daughter Bella, who Pervelis said was the center of his best friend’s world.
“He just loved her. The only thing that would get in the way of band practice would be something with Bella,” he said, “He made everything fun, and now it’s like, what are we going to do? We gotta pick up the pieces.”
Pieces of a puzzle that Pervelis said will never again be complete.
The band plans to stick with the upcoming tour schedule, they said that’s what Bill would want them to do.