You could’ve heard a pin drop on Main Street in Bay Shore on Wednesday as more than 20,000 people awaited the procession and final send-off for fallen firefighter Jesse Gerhard.
Gerhard, a 33-year-old NYC firefighter and Islip volunteer, died on Feb. 16 after responding to a 2nd Alarm fire at 25-43 Beach Channel Drive in Far Rockaway.
On Feb. 23 at noon, family, friends, first responders, local and state officials came together at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Bay Shore to bid their last goodbyes and pay respects to Gerhard.
The funeral procession commenced at Chapey’s Funeral Home in East Islip and emergency vehicles drove down Montauk Highway to the church steps.
Bagpipes echoed through the silent town and emergency vehicles slowly made their way down Main Street.
The inside of the church was filled to its maximum capacity and following the mass, NYPD helicopters flew overhead in tribute.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams attended and spoke at the funeral mass, emphasizing how Gerhard’s dedication and service to the people of New York will not be forgotten.
“He loved being a firefighter, that’s all he wanted to do,” said Adams. “To find his purpose, he never wavered or lost his commitment and dedication, he was Jesus-like.”
Michael Ormiston, Gerhard’s friend and a senior member of Ladder 134, got choked up reflecting on Gerhard’s impact as “the bridge between senior members and the junior members” of the firehouse.
“Jesse Gerhard is the type of person a firefighter would describe if he was asked to build the perfect firefighter,” Ormiston said, through tears. “He did his job, he did it well, he never complained, and he made everyone around him feel safer in the face of hell…the only difference, Jesse would have built himself better than anyone could.”
Ormiston finished his speech with one phrase, which was met with resounding applause.
“Work hard, play hard, Gerhard.”
Scroll down to view photos of Jesse Gerhard’s funeral and procession. All photos taken by Ana Borruto.
Top: An arrangement that reads “The Big House: Far Rockaway.”