NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Thousands lined up along 5th Avenue as funeral services for fallen FDNY veteran Lt. Michael Davidson were held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan Tuesday morning.
A flag-draped coffin bearing Davidson arrived at the cathedral on a fire truck adorned with his name and black-and-purple bunting.
The 37-year-old husband and father of four young children, who was posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant on Saturday, spent all 15 years of his career with Engine 69.
Along the route, American flags were draped overhead as throngs of white-gloved firefighters in dress uniform stood at attention along Fifth Avenue. A bagpipe emitted the mournful strains of “Amazing Grace” as the casket was carried inside.
The 15-year FDNY veteran was killed battling a fire in Harlem last week.
During the funeral ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, noting that Catholics are observing Holy Week, said that Lt. Michael Davidson gave his life for others as Jesus did and his blood contained “the DNA of the FDNY.”
FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro praised Davidson with remembrances close to the heart of everyone who serves on the department.
“Every firefighter wants the nozzle, even the ones in the truck when they’re honest,” said Nigro. “They’ll admit it too: Every firefighter wants that moment of battling a fire, of pushing it back, and feeling when ultimately you defeat it. As a prober, you long for that first chance. It’s one of the core tasks of our department – saving life and property by literally fighting fire.”
On one occasion, while only two years into his career with the FDNY, Davidson suffered serious burns to his hands will pushing ahead to fight a 3-alarm blaze on the third floor of a building.
“He would not stop, he kept fighting,” said Nigro. “It was clear from the very beginning of his career that he was special.”
“This whole city knows Lt. Michael Davidson was a hero of the highest order,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio during his eulogy at the funeral service.
On Monday, Cardinal Dolan paid his respects at Davidson’s wake with something special in hand.
“I brought a palm for Michael, for the casket, because it’s Palm Sunday and I said it’s gotta be a consolation, doesn’t it? That this week of all weeks, when we think about the death and the cross and the one who said, ‘greater love than this no one has than to give his life for another.’ Jesus said that and now we got Michael as a living, radiant example of that,” Dolan said.
The medical examiner’s office said Monday that Davidson’s cause of death was smoke inhalation, but said the manner of death was pending further studies.
Davidson died early Friday morning while battling a blaze at a building where the crew of the film “Motherless Brooklyn” had been shooting Thursday night and noticed smoke.
As conditions worsened in the basement, Davidson somehow became separated from his team.
It’s still unclear what caused the fire. The building was scheduled for demolition so investigators can get a closer look at the basement.
The somber scene at St. Patrick’s Cathedral unfolded on the same day a tenant in the fire-ravaged Harlem building filed a $7 million lawsuit accusing Edward Norton’s production company of “recklessness, carelessness and negligence.”
In the lawsuit, also filed against the building’s owner, Vincent Sollazzo, Erica Cruz said she was forced to “run for her life” and suffered “severe and permanent personal injuries” and property loss.
Cruz’s brother, George, holds the lease on the apartment and is named as a plaintiff.
“When representatives of Class 5, Inc. became aware of the fire, they did not warn tenants in the building; in fact, they misled the tenants into believing there had been a fire that had been extinguished,” the lawsuit claims.
The landlord was “reckless, careless and negligent” in failing to maintain the building in a safe condition, according to the lawsuit.
The production company had no immediate comment. Efforts to reach the building’s owner for comment were unsuccessful.
Authorities said the building next to the one destroyed by the fire had been targeted in several burglaries since the blaze.
The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund has promised to provide financial support for Davidson’s family. To learn more about the fund or to donate, click here.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation has also pledged $100,000 to help pay off the family’s mortgage. To learn more about the foundation or to donate, click here.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)