New York Daily News
The last time these Canarsie firefighters were preparing for a brother’s funeral it was Timothy Klein who was fretting over the phrases of a eulogy, making sure every word had purpose, and every sentence was just right.
“He came to me and asked me if I could help,” said FDNY Lt. Robert Kittelberger, of Ladder 170, where Firefighter Steven Pollard worked before he was killed in the line of duty in 2019.
“So we spent that week, pretty much, we didn’t leave the firehouse. Everybody was there around the clock and he would just wander into my office. He would sit for an hour here, an hour there,” said Kittelberger.
“All I did was, you know, maybe change a sentence here or there, but the sentiment was all his.”
Kittelberger shared the memory Thursday outside a Brooklyn funeral home where the wake this time was for Klein.
The second-generation firefighter was killed Sunday when a ceiling collapsed during a three-alarm blaze in Canarsie, hitting Klein, 31, and sending other firefighters scrambling to safety.
A building tenant, Carlos Richards, 21, an autistic man who lived in the two-family home with his mother, was also killed in the blaze, authorities said. His mother, a registered nurse, was not at home during the fire.
Mourners filled the McManus Funeral Home in Flatlands, where the aroma from dozens of floral arrangements filled the air and photos of Klein were on display: pictures of Klein in pickup basketball games, with his girlfriend and relatives at family outings and during trips to the beloved beach.
Outside, seemingly endless lines of firefighters stretched in two directions, one heading north along E. 46th St. and another snaking along Schenectady Ave.
Slowly, they walked by Klein’s open coffin where he took his hero’s rest in a casket that held his uniform caps from the Rangers and Yankee and a pair of sunglasses.
“We’re just going to try to get through the next couple of days,” Kittelberger said outside the funeral home. “Stick together. Take care of each other and watch each other’s backs and we’ll get through it. But it’s going to be a tough haul without Tim because we loved him and he was just a very big part of our family.”
Among the mourners was Mayor Adams, who quietly paid his respects without commenting to reporters. On hand, too, was Acting Chief of Department John Hodgens, who praised Klein’s volunteer work with the Fight for Firefighters Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds and builds wheelchair and access ramps for families of first responders.
“They’ve built 30 of these since the organization began, for people in need, and Tim did not miss one of those 30 builds,” Hodgens said.
The cause of the Canarsie fire has not been determined yet.
“We’re doing an investigation to find out exactly what happened to make sure that Tim did not die in vain as we learn our lessons and do things to make sure that this never happens again,” Hodgens said.
“We also recognize that we lost a young man in the building as well and just that alone is something that will make a firefighter feel sorrow, just losing a person at a fire.”
Klein’s funeral will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at St. Francis de Sales Church on Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Queens.
The wake also drew local residents who just wanted to pay their respects and say thank you.
“My father’s a retired deputy chief,” said Edward Ruppell, 72, of Canarsie, who waited in a long line before entering the wake. “It’s something that you feel that you have to come and do. “It’s a very tough job. Every day you don’t know when you’re going out if you’re coming back,”