“Firemen are going to get killed,” Klein said in the eulogy for his friend on a cold January day three years ago, words that now seem eerily prescient. “When they join the department they face that fact. When a man becomes a firefighter his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work. They were not thinking of getting killed when they went where death lurked. They went there to put the fire out and got killed. Firefighters do not regard themselves as heroes because they do what the business requires.”
The bagpipes played outside Ladder 170 Engine 257 in Brooklyn on Monday, April 25th as the black and purple bunting was hung for the second time in three years.
Klein had always wanted to be a firefighter. His father Pat, a 30-year firefighter veteran, also served in Brooklyn, and young Klein had many cousins and uncles on the job.
A cousin, Keith Klein who is on the job, told the NYT the day the bunting was hung, “Timothy understood the risks. We all do, growing up in a firefighter family.”
At the funeral service, held Friday at St. Francis de Sales Church in Belle Harbor, Queens, Mayor Eric Adams spoke and thanked the family for reminding him of the strength of the American family.
Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, said the most fitting tribute she could deliver was to quote the words Timothy Klein had used to eulogize his friend Steven Pollard three years earlier.
But it was Timothy’s mother Dee Dee Klein and fellow firefighter Vincent Geary from ladder 170 who drew the biggest ovations.
Geary recalled the many shared moments he had with TK, known as “The Golden Boy,” and the “Canarsie Kid” after he landed in the firehouse that ladder 170 shared with Engine 257. Geary said one rule that the firehouse abided by is, “if something good happened to you in the fire department, you had to throw a party for everyone else.” Geary, who said he met his wife through his pal, recalled one Thanksgiving when TK had sent a group email to friends and told them that a favorite bar in Rockaway called The Wharf was going to waive its cover charge if they brought cans for a charitable food drive. Of course, the bar had no such food drive in play and the bouncers all wondered why so many people were turning up with a can of food – with Klein thanking them all and waving them in.
His mom recalled how her son overcame anemia as a baby and how his dad’s fellow firefighters donated blood for Timmy’s transfusions, so in a way she said, firefighting was in his blood from the start . She thought his medical issues early on helped him develop his affinity for charities including Fight for Firefighters, which he worked with on his days off, building and remodeling homes for disabled first responders.
She talked about how her son loved sports, and though he was small for his age due to his illness, he tried out for every team and played with enthusiasm. He played rugby for a Breezy Point team, softball in Brooklyn and Queens FDNY teams, and had played basketball for the vaunted basketball program at his high school – Archbishop Molloy.
Firefighter funerals, even for sudden deaths, are reunions in many ways. There are handshakes and back slaps and “how’s the family?”
And it is probably not true that every other house in Rockaway had two or three firefighters stepping out in dress blue finest on Friday, but it sure seemed that way as they stole to the church past all the trees and railings and doorways decked out with red ribbons.
There was in some ways a casualness preceding the somber gathering. Until you heard the sound of the muffled drums approaching. Then the sea of dress blues stood to attention. And all that could be heard on the way into the church and again on the way out, was the sound of flags flapping in the breeze.
Then after the blue line that stretched for what seemed a mile stood at rigid attention for 20 minutes, came the announcement. “On behalf of the Klein Family and the Fire Department of the City of New York, we thank you.
And off they went to fight fires another day.