Son of a firefighter was 'best of Bravest'

Funeral on S.I. for WTC hero

By MARY ENGELS and BILL HUTCHINSON
DAILY NEWS WRITERS


Firefighter Gary Geidel's family and friends gathered at a pastoral setting on Staten Island yesterday to bid farewell and reminisce about the "best of the Bravest."

The grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center was a favorite spot of the 44-year-old Geidel, who would often take his daughter Mathilda there to watch birds and take in the sunset.

"Daddy is the best daddy in the whole world. I love you," 7-year-old Mathilda said yesterday before helping release a dove to honor her father.

The son of a firefighter, Geidel was a member of Manhattan's elite Rescue 1 unit. He was driving to work on Sept. 11, but made a beeline for the World Trade Center when he heard it was under attack.

He was one of eleven Rescue 1 firefighters who charged into the burning towers and died while saving others.

Geidel was only two weeks away from retiring when he died. His remains were never recovered.

"Gary did what firefighters do. Their natural reaction is to run toward danger. He and the others gave their lives that day doing just that," Mayor Bloomberg told mourners, including Geidel's wife of 15 years, Tillie; hundreds of firefighters and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta predicted that Geidel's bravery would "inspire future generations of firefighters."

"He was the best of the Bravest," Scoppetta said.

Born and raised in Tottenville, S.I., Geidel enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from Tottenville High School. In 1981, he followed his father's footsteps and joined the FDNY. In 1990, he hitched on with Rescue 1, where he served alongside his brother Michael.

"His expertise was stellar," said Fire Lt. John Kiernan of Rescue 1. "He was a super firefighter."

Special to many

Geidel's father, retired Fire Lt. Paul Geidel, led a procession of pallbearers carrying an empty flag-draped coffin into a tent on the grounds that was filled with flowers and photographs of the fallen hero.

Nick Kriton, a boyhood friend of Geidel, said Geidel once rescued him from drowning off the beach in Tottenville when they were kids. "He rescued me before joining the rescue company," Kriton said. "It's because of him I'm here today."

Giuliani said it was hard to grasp that a year has almost passed since the disaster.

"But the reality of why we are here is because of Gary and others like him, who saved thousands on that historic day," Giuliani said.

Geidel's mother, Patricia, choked up as she spoke of her son. "I am overwhelmed that so many came to remember my little boy," she said. "He will always be special to me."


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