New York City firefighter who died serving in Iraq recalled as hero

Friday, December 10, 2004

NEW YORK -- A New York City firefighter who responded to the 2001 World Trade Center attack and died last month serving with the Army National Guard in Iraq was remembered Thursday as "the true definition of a hero."

Sgt. Christian Engeldrum, who also was a former police officer, was killed Nov. 29 when his vehicle was attacked outside Baghdad. He was the first New York City employee to die in the U.S.-led war.

At a funeral Mass overflowing with thousands of police, firefighters and uniformed military, Engeldrum was recalled as an extraordinarily brave public servant.

Engeldrum, 39, left behind two teenage sons and his pregnant wife, Sharon. One son, 18-year-old Sean, gave an emotional eulogy that received thunderous applause.

"My dad is the greatest man I will ever know," he said. "I only hope to be half the man he was."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the Mass at a church in the Bronx.

So did Daniel Swift, a New York firefighter who was injured in the same attack in Iraq. In his fire department uniform, wearing an eye patch and with one steel crutch under his right arm, he was escorted up the church steps by fellow firefighters.

Engeldrum was a five-year fire department veteran. He also served in the Army from 1986 to 1991, including the Gulf War.

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