NEW YORK – Just days short of the fourth anniversary of his death, a firefighter lost in the World Trade Center (search) was hailed at his funeral Wednesday for his passion for service.
Gerard Baptiste's (search) remains were not identified until earlier this year. With the echo of bagpipes and the firefighters in dress uniform, the services for him at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral were eerily reminiscent of countless others in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Baptiste was one of three firefighters from Ladder 9 in the East Village (search) to die at Ground Zero.
"He was driven by an unbridled passion to help others," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, noting that Baptiste was on the 33rd floor of the north tower directing people to safety in the minutes before his death.
The 35-year-old Baptiste, who was single, was known to colleagues and local residents as "Biscuits," a tribute to his penchant for carrying treats that he would dispense to neighborhood dogs. A bucket of dog biscuits still sits inside the door of his old firehouse, Bloomberg said.
A memorial service was held for Baptiste by fire officials on Nov. 16, 2001. After the remains were identified, relatives initially had sought to bury Baptiste, a lieutenant in the 69th Infantry of the National Guard, in Arlington National Cemetery.
When their request was denied, they opted instead for a line-of-duty funeral for him.
Baptiste's death spurred his fellow firefighters at Ladder 9 to finish a project their lost colleague had started: the restoration of a rusted-out 1979 Honda CB750 motorcycle.
A documentary, "F.D.N.Y. Dream Bike," recounted the rehabilitation effort.