Gathering to say goodbye to the second fallen member in as many weeks, thousands of firefighters and officers from across the city lined the streets of Staten Islands Castleton Avenue Nov. 26 to pay their respects to Lt. Robert J. Ryan Jr. “Nobody could step into his shoes,” said Lt. Robert Natalicchio of Ladder 78/Engine 155, where Ryan was assigned. “We can only hope to grow into them.”
FDNY Commissioner Scoppetta recalled a devoted member who could easily have retired in 2006, after an on-the-job injury kept him off the job for about a year.
“He worked hard to get back to the job that he loved,” Scoppetta said in his eulogy at Sacred Heart Church Nov. 26. “That’s why after he came back, he devoted his prodigious energies and talents to raise funds for the Staten Island Hospital burn unit that had treated him. And that’s why he was a leader in the firehouse. He did the right thing, always.”
Scoppetta added: “One phrase that’s come up a lot in the last few days in describing Lt. Ryan has been ‘he’s a fireman’s fireman.’ I can’t think of a higher compliment.”
Ryan, 46, died early on Nov. 23 while operating at a second-alarm fire at 39 Van Buren St., in the New Brighton neighborhood of Staten Island. Knocked unconscious in the attic of the burning home, he was rushed to Richmond University Medical Center of Staten Island and pronounced dead.
“What’s particularly poignant about today is not today but tomorrow. Tomorrow is a day of thanks, Thanksgiving,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “But it is, especially this year, a little bit difficult to count your blessings when you’ve lost somebody that made so much of a difference in this city.
Bloomberg added: “There is something to give thanks for and that is we were lucky enough to have Bobby Ryan on this earth protecting our City, even if the time that he had here was much too short.”
Lt. Ryan was assigned to Engine 155 more than two years ago. He previously served with Engines 228, 280 and 282 in Brooklyn, Engine 6 in Manhattan, the 4th Battalion in Manhattan and the 22nd Battalion on Staten Island. He joined the department on April 14, 1991 and was promoted to lieutenant in March 2001.
Firefighter Kevin Connolly of Ladder 78 recalled meeting Ryan’s son, Chris, for the first time at the hospital early on Nov. 23. “He hugged me and said, ‘Be strong,’” Connolly recalled, his voice breaking. “Here’s a young man, a senior in high school, telling me to be strong. That showed me, Chris, what a great job your dad did raising you.”
Ryan is survived by his wife, Kathleen; a son, Chris, 17; a daughter, Kayla, 12; a stepson, Alex, 10; and a stepdaughter, Emma, 8.
“Kayla and Chris, you were his pride, his love and his joy. His strength, his sprit will live on in both of you always,” his wife, Kathleen told them from the altar. “Alex and Emma, he loved you too, unconditionally, as only he could.”
On Nov. 18, the FDNY laid to rest Firefighter Jamel M. Sears, who collapsed while training at the academy.