New York City

Thousands Flood St. Patrick's Cathedral to Honor FDNY Hero Killed in Movie Shoot Blaze

Fire engines lined highway overpasses; firefighters stood in salute as the flag-draped casket of Michael Davidson was carried to the cathedral

What to Know

  • FDNY Lt. Michael Davidson will be laid to rest Tuesday after a funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan
  • Davidson's body was escorted on the L.I.E. and the FDR Drive, passing mourners along the route. Thousands have packed the church and streets
  • Davidson leaves behind a wife and four young children. The mayor, fire commissioner and his younger brother were among those who spoke.

Thousands of mourners gathered at Manhattan's famed St. Patrick's Cathedral Tuesday to bid farewell to the decorated firefighter and married father of four killed while battling a five-alarm blaze on a movie set last week in Harlem.

Dozens of motorcycles helped escort a fire engine carrying the flag-bedecked casket of Lt. Michael Davidson, 37, along a highway in solemn, miles-long procession Tuesday morning; fire trucks lined overpasses as colleagues stood to in salute of the fallen hero who got separated from his crew.

As the procession continued down FDR Drive, drivers and passengers, passersby and construction workers along the highway and on overpasses also paused to salute Davidson, Chopper 4 showed.

A portion of Fifth Avenue in front of St. Patrick's was shut down for the funeral. Throngs of uniformed firefighters awaited Davidson's body outside, saluting his casket as it was brought into the cathedral. 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, noting that Catholics are observing Holy Week, said that Fire Department of New York Lt. Michael Davidson gave his life for others, as Jesus did.

The blood of Davidson - who hailed from a family of firefighters - contained "the DNA of the FDNY," Dolan said, and his name "radiates goodness, valor and virtue as sparkling as the badge he wears."

Davidson, a 15-year veteran of the FDNY who had been noted for bravery several times, died of smoke inhalation in the smoky building at St. Nicholas Avenue and 149th Street on Thursday, the medical examiner ruled. He leaves behind his wife and four young children -- a son and three daughters. His father is retired from the FDNY and his younger brother Eric is also a New York City firefighter. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro both spoke at the service, noting his extraordinary leadership and his devotion to his family. 

"Michael made this city great through his actions every day," said de Blasio. 

Nigro said it was clear from the beginning of his career that Davidson, who was posthumously promoted to lieutenant, was special. 

"Those who battled alongside him will tell you, Lt. Michael Davidson was a natural-born nozzleman," said Nigro. "Many nights, Mike led his company into a fire toward the danger using his remarkable abilities and talents to extinguish the fire." 

"Mike commanded every situation and led his fellow firefighters into battle. He wasn't their captain, he wasn't their lieutenant, but he was without question their leader." 

A somber bagpipe procession escorted the fire engine carrying the casket of fallen FDNY hero Michael Davidson to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Davidson died last week when a five-alarm fire broke out on a movie set in Harlem.

Davidson's brother Eric said he's been his hero his entire life. 

"From the day I was born, he was watching over. And I know he still is and always will be," he said. 

Eric Davidson offered a moment of levity when he told mourners that a million thoughts ran through his mind when he learned of his brother's death, but "one of the first moments that ran through my mind -- other than Eileen and the kids, obviously -- was, 'Wow, I'm never going to celebrate a Mets or Jets championship with my brother." 

He continued, "But then I paused and quickly realized that we could have lived till we were 100 years old and probably still not have gotten to see that happen," eliciting laughter through the church. 

"He just had this aura about him that you would think to yourself, 'Wow, if I could just be a fraction of the man that he is, then I'm doing all right for myself," said Eric. 

As the service drew to a close, FDNY firefighters carried Davidson's casket outside of the church and back onto the fire truck amid salutes. 

The fatal fire broke out in the basement of an apartment building used as the set of "Motherless Brooklyn," which is being directed by Ed Norton and stars Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Leslie Mann.

Norton took to social media on Saturday to praise the FDNY’s bravery and his film crew’s quick thinking. Davidson was promoted posthumously Saturday to a lieutenant.

Meanwhile, the fire-gutted Harlem building is expected to be demolished, though it's not clear when that will happen. The Department of Buildings issued the building owner has hired a general contractor for demolition, and vacate orders have been issued for neighboring buildings until the demolition of 773 St. Nicholas Ave. is finished.

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