Families, friends honor attack heroes


(Original publication: Sept. 30, 2001)

Denis P. Germain

Hundreds of mourners turned out yesterday to pay their respects to New York City firefighter Denis P. Germain of Ladder No. 2, who remains missing along with more than 300 of his comrades who fought to save lives during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

It was standing-room only inside the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Sloatsburg, with the hundreds more who could not fit standing either in the churchyard or in the street. The family members, fellow firefighters, police officers and friends stood in the crisp outdoors to pay their respects and to offer comfort to the bereaved family.

The Rev. Michael Hardimann of Immaculate Conception Center on Long Island, Germain's cousin, offered the memorial Mass. He compared the 33-year-old resident of Tuxedo Park in Orange County, and the other lost firefighters, to the good shepherd spoken of in the Bible, who, even though all but one of his sheep is accounted for, is compelled to go looking for the lost one.

"Who else would rush into a burning building when everyone else is rushing out?" Hardimann asked. "Only a firefighter."

Many were overcome with emotion during the service, and cried openly when Denis' father, Phillip, got up to read the first lesson, but could not get beyond the first few words before he was overwhelmed with emotion.

Several who paid tribute to Denis Germain spoke of an earnest, vibrant young man who loved to laugh.

"He was a rare guy with a gleam in his eye, and he would tell me I'm having a bad hair day," said longtime friend and colleague Billy Holland.

His voice shook as he described his friend as sincere and real, and who had earned the nickname "Germ, because he was infectious and he grew on you."

During the Mass, the congregation joined hands and said the Lord's Prayer, followed by strains of "Amazing Grace" played by members of New York City Fire Department's Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Band.

Messages of condolence and comfort were sent by Gov. George Pataki, Cardinal Edward Egan of the Archdiocese of New York and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Michael Hess, who delivered Giuliani's message, said the mayor had made it a point of duty during his two terms in City Hall to go the funerals of all New York City firefighters, but that the enormity of this disaster made that impossible.

"No one died in vain that day. They sacrificed their own lives to save the lives of others and when they saved one person they saved a family," Giuliani's message read.

During his seven years with Ladder No. 2, Germain was awarded three unit citations. Those three awards, evidence of his record, hung on his uniform, which, along with his hat and helmet, were displayed at the front of the church.

The FDNY was very much a brotherhood for Germain, whose older brothers Michael and Brian also serve, Hess added. Germain also has two sisters, Peggy and Theresa.

Germain's cousin, Patricia Kelly, who is retired from the New York City Police Department, said he was her "little adventure buddy" who would tag along with her to ballgames, and who won over her friends.

"He was always so cute and they used to give him candy," said Kelly, adding that he was "a good skier, a natural athlete."

"I believed he was going to be found," she said. "This is going to help everyone believe that he is finally gone