Mike, Firefighters Honor 'Gentle Giant'

Daily News Staff Writer

Mayor Bloomberg quoted Shakespeare and thanked all of the city's firefighters yesterday as he helped lay to rest the "gentle giant of Ladder 25," Paul Ruback.

"Paul Ruback was such a man," the mayor said.

In remarks made from the pulpit of St. Patrick's Church in upstate Newburgh, Bloomberg expressed his gratitude to all in the FDNY for protecting the city he now governs.

"I didn't know Paul, but I do have children, and they were safer because of him," Bloomberg said.

A 20-year veteran assigned to the upper West Side firehouse, Ruback was the latest of the 343 FDNY members killed in the attack on the World Trade Center to be buried. His body was identified Monday through DNA testing. Ruback, 50, was an introspective, intellectual man who loved military history, according to Ladder 25 Capt. Gary Senger. Other colleagues said the hulking, 6-foot-4 Ruback was known to strum his guitar in the firehouse and sing "Kumbaya."

The Rev. Francis Gunn told the audience of about 250 mourners that there "is no greater gift than to lay down one's life" to save others. Ruback would have gone into the burning building, Gunn said, "even if there was just one person to save there."

Gray skies, a stubborn drizzle and the hardscrabble character of the town Ruback called home compounded the somber mood.

A gray hearse drove past a color guard, and six firefighters pulled Ruback's flag-draped wooden coffin out and carried it into the church. Walking close behind were Ruback's estranged wife and five of his six children, followed by Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

"Paulie was the gentle giant of Ladder 25," a former comrade, Firefighter Sean O'Brien, told the audience. "The world is a good bit less fortunate today because Paulie's not here among us."

Yesterday, the medical examiner identified 11 more bodies from the World Trade Center, including four FDNY firefighters: James Corrigan, Joseph Grzelak, Michael Lynch and James Riches.

The other victims were identified as WTC security officer Larry Bowman, Douglas Cherry, fire safety director Richard Fitzsimons, fire safety director Philip Hayes, Carlos Samaniego, Catherine Smith and William Steckman.

Original Publication Date: 3/27/02