IN MEMORY OF VALOR Hundreds mourn fallen 9/11 fireman

Copyright 2002 Daily News, L.P.
Daily News (New York)...07/13/2002

By AUSTIN FENNER DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Firefighter Robert (Bobby) Hamilton epitomized a South Bronx fireman, friends and FDNY colleagues said yesterday.

"Bobby Hamilton's whole career was in the South Bronx. He's the classic city fireman," said longtime friend and South Bronx resident Marty Rogers, 47. "Bobby kept the door (to the firehouse) open, and his heart was always open."

Rogers and others from the neighborhood around Squad 41 traveled to upstate Washingtonville to join some 500 friends, family members and firefighters for a funeral Mass for the fallen firefighter, who died during the rescue effort at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

Rogers said Hamilton, 43, cut an impressive figure. He stood over 6 feet and was a strapping 230 pounds.

Always ready with a bright smile, the square-jawed Hamilton would watch the block from a chair in front of the Squad 41 firehouse, a special operations unit on E. 150th St., said Rogers.

Hamilton was one of six firefighters from the elite outfit that perished during the terrorist attacks.

"The whole company that day that responded to the Trade Center got killed," said Rogers.

In between fires, Hamilton would fill the tires of bicycles belonging to local kids or place a sprinkler cap on a fire hydrant to cool them off on a hot summer day.

On Thanksgiving Day, he was known as the "yam man" over at Immaculate Conception Church in the South Bronx.

"Bobby would cook yams for over 400 people," said Rogers, referring to a dinner for senior citizens and the homeless. "That was his job. The yams were good. It would be piping hot on 25 trays."

Hamilton grew up on Forest Ave. in Ridgewood, Queens, and married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth, 44, from Christ the King.

Yesterday, his widow had red-rimmed eyes and a smile on her face as she clutched a red and white carnation in her left hand. During the service at St. Mary's Catholic Church, she pointed and guided her son, Robert Jr., 12, and daughter, Christine, 7, during the presentation of Communion gifts to the altar.

The Rev. John Keaveney said the terrorists who attacked Sept. 11 didn't set out to conquer America, but were seeking to achieve fear in front of a global audience.

"They (the terrorists) came to make us afraid," said Keaveney. "The terrorists failed."

Keaveney said that day the Fire Department created a legend of professionalism.

"(The world) saw Squad 41 and the rest of the Fire Department walking straight forward into a living hell (to save lives). We showed them what America is made of," he said.

As a giant 50-foot flag fluttered in the wind, Hamilton was given a final salute with a helicopter fly-by before his coffin was lowered into a grave at nearby St. Mary's Cemetery.