By Ron Jeffers.-
Jersey City firefighters braved the heavy rain and assembled at Bayview Cemetery on the morning of July 24th to remember the department’s fallen members. They gathered at the grave site of Steamer Engineer James W. Mc Carthy who was the first career city fireman to be killed in the line-of-duty.
The memorial began several years ago as a project by fire dispatcher, and Gong Club life member, Ira Rubin. Ira, who became a department historian, researched records and discovered that Mc Carthy was the first line-of-duty death, which occurred in 1872. A huge commercial building was burning on Provost Street when a brick wall collapsed near Steamer 3, instantly killing its engineer.
Rubin got members of the fire department to join in on an annual memorial on the day of his death-July 24th for a wreath ceremony, including bag pipes, at the cemetery.
Rubin has since passed away, but the Gong Club and the fire department has continued the tradition. Fire Chief Steve Mc Gill has gone further by proclaiming July 24th as the official Annual Day of Remembrance for Line-of-Duty deaths within the Jersey City Fire Department.
As fire officers, firefighters, and retired members gathered at the cemetery to begin the memorial the rain suddenly stopped. When Reverend James Pagnotta, the fire department chaplain, began the memorial, the sun broke through the clouds. Perhaps, from the heavens, Ira was showing how proud he was that his efforts have now become the department’s official day to remember its heroes.