Firefighter Funeral Marks Anniversary

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - In 1970, Peter Bielfeld and his family took a trip downtown to the World Trade Center construction site.

Thirty-one years later, his father recalled Tuesday at Bielfeld's funeral, the veteran New York City firefighter died on the same spot.

"He had his duty to do,'' an emotional Ernest Bielfeld said, clutching a photo of that long-ago visit to lower Manhattan. "He went to the towers of hell, and he did not come back.''

In the last funeral before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Fire Department of New York remembered another of its lost 343 firefighters in a Bronx church near the stationhouse that Bielfeld loved so well.

It was the family's second service for their son. In November, when it seemed his remains might never come out of ground zero, they held a memorial without his body.

And one day before the first anniversary of his death, family, friends and firefighters convened again at St. Anselm's church for a final send-off of his recovered remains.

Bagpipes echoed off the walls of a neighboring high-rise as more than 1,000 firefighters - most in dress blues and white gloves - saluted their lost brother. Bielfeld, 44, spent 19 years as a firefighter in the New York City borough where he grew up.

Bielfeld's father, mentioning his young granddaughter, noted sadly that the calendar has forever changed for children like her.

"How did we come to this?'' he asked. "A whole generation of kids will not measure a year from Jan. 1 to Jan. 1, but from Sept. 11 to Sept. 11.''

His father said that on the day of his death, Bielfeld was in Brooklyn - far from his usual Ladder Co. 42 - when he saw the twin towers smoking. He immediately headed to Manhattan.

With an unlit cigar in his mouth, Bielfeld wrote his family a note expressing his love, left it in an empty locker, and headed into the maelstrom.

At the end of the 2 1/2-hour service, Bielfeld's casket was loaded atop a vintage firetruck and driven though the streets where he'd worked for so long.

Behind a procession of firefighters, the truck drove past a mural bearing his name and likeness on a local grocery store.

Four firefighters stood there at attention, while two held flags. On the wall was a simple message: "You will never be forgotten.''