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Thread: 'God bless Paddy Brown,' we cried as we tossed his ashes into air

  1. #1
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002

    'God bless Paddy Brown,' we cried as we tossed his ashes into air

    'God bless Paddy Brown,' we cried as we tossed his ashes into air

    In keeping with the humble spirit that Fire Capt. Patrick (Paddy) Brown shared with all great men, most of us took only a modest handful of his cremated remains. "Anybody need some more?" asked his brother, Mike Brown.

    Mike went back down the line of 30 mourners and we each scooped a little more from the cardboard container. The gray ash was gritty to the touch. It rested in the palm as if disbelief had taken substance, as unreal as the thought we would never again see our gallant friend.

    "Oh, Patrick," Vina Drennan said.

    We had arrayed ourselves along the top of the Great Lawn in Central Park, the place Paddy had marked on the map he had enclosed in a letter should anything ever happen to him. Paddy had often passed this way on the long jogs that kept him fit enough to have lived another half century. You had only to gaze downtown to know why he had chosen this spot.

    On this sharply cold January night four months after the attack on the World Trade Center, the remaining spires of Manhattan stood beyond the dark trees with incandescent majesty. These surviving towers seemed to have been constructed to be admired from exactly here at precisely this hour. The sky above was so clear we could see the stars not often glimpsed over this city Paddy had served so valiantly.

    "This is kinda beautiful, you know," Mike said.

    Mike was echoing words Paddy had uttered seven years ago, after fire Capt. John Drennan lost a 40-day struggle to survive terrible burns he suffered in a fire on Watts St.

    "We cried over his body and stuff," Paddy said. "It was kinda beautiful, you know."

    Vina and the rest of us now followed Mike's instructions to turn about toward the moon that shone big and bright behind us. We cast our handfuls into the icy air and called out in one voice.

    "God bless Paddy Brown!"

    The breeze caught the ash and it stayed aloft, swirling and sparkling in the moonlight. The one and only Paddy Brown, the firefighter who was always first in and last out, seemed to have become a kind of magic, heavenly dust.

    We all still had gritty ash on our palms and fingers. The one who knew what to do was the pregnant widow of a firefighter who perished with Paddy in the north tower. Her husband and Paddy had been as close as brothers, and she now rubbed her hands on her face in a gesture of pure and perfect love.

    In a hush, we walked over to a silver maple that had been planted in Paddy's memory. Nobody had wanted to take the last of the ashes from the cardboard container, and Mike gently poured what was left around the base of the tree. Somebody set down a holy card that had a smiling Paddy on the front and a photo of a rope rescue on the back. Somebody else added a small, flickering candle.

    With the unadorned, genuine voice of a former grammar school teacher, Vina broke into the Marine Corps Hymn. We sang along and she led us straight into "God Bless America." We placed our gritted hands over our sorrowing hearts.

    Just as we ended with "... my home sweet home," an airliner like the planes that struck the twin towers flew overhead as if in a variation of the traditional military tribute.

    "The hardest thing was to get that plane to fly over," Mike joked.

    We proved we could still laugh. We did not seem to leave even the smallest fleck of what was important about Paddy behind as we went down the winding, sloping path leading from the park.

    On the way out, we passed the uptown end of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and through the glass we could see the Egyptian Temple of Dendur. No ancient ritual could have held more power than had Mike Brown with his cardboard container.

    The whole city seemed to be Paddy's temple as we headed downtown, but then again that was how the city had seemed when he was alive. We crowded into a long table in one of his favorite restaurants, a pizza parlor as unassuming as Paddy himself.

    A waitress whose eyes were welling at the memory of Paddy set down our orders. Fingers that had just scattered his remains into the moonlight now moved sustenance to mouth.

    "Nobody washed their hands," Mike would later note.

    At night's end, we shook those hands and embraced, each carrying our love of Paddy with us when we parted. Some of us could still feel the faintest traces of the grit between our fingertips the next morning.

    The pregnant widow who had shown such magnificence of heart when she rubbed the ash on her face went on to have her baby, a girl. Vina returned to her life of writing and doting on her grandkids. Mike went back to his life as a Las Vegas emergency room doctor, his hands doing the daily work of a true Brown.

    Up at that perfect spot at the top of the Great Lawn early Friday afternoon, the breeze carried the scent of newly mown grass. A boy about 5 in an FDNY T-shirt pedaled by on a bike with training wheels, the spires of Manhattan standing off in the distance against a porcelain blue sky liable to remind anyone older of another September day.

    Five other youngsters, four girls and a boy, ran barefoot on the cushiony lawn, laughing as if the air still held some kind of magic dust. You rubbed your fingertips together and a year later you missed Capt. Patrick (Paddy) Brown only more than on that sunny morning we lost him.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Morrow, Ohio
    To whom it may concern: I have just read the following article. I must say it is a tear jerker. I am a veteran Firefighter of 15 years, and very proud of the job I do and love.

    May God bless the Brown Family, as well as all of the other familes who have lost loved ones on Sept. 11th. We know that Capt. Patrick Brown will be watching over the family of FDNY.

    To the widow of the Firefighter. May your daughter live through her father. I had a son pass away on July 7th, 1999 from a rare disease. I pray and thank him every day that I may live on through him and I know when I respond into a fire, he is with me.

    To the FDNY brothers; May God Bless you, may he speed your way in your times of sympathy. Please remember that we are always with you and We Will Always Remember.

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