SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Thousands of police officers joined the family of Joseph Longobardo at the funeral Monday for the state trooper, one of three shot during the hunt for fugitive Ralph "Bucky" Phillips.
Coming on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, speakers at the funeral — including Gov. George Pataki and the head of the Albany Diocese, Bishop Howard Hubbard — put Longobardo in the company of the public servants who were among the 3,000 people killed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Highways were filled with police cruisers, motorcycles and vans as mourners traveled to this resort town north of Albany. Officers stood in ranks four deep along the tree-lined street where a hearse carried Longobardo's body under cool, sunny skies to St. Clement's Roman Catholic Church.
In dress blues and grays, officers wore the insignia of police agencies from as near as Vermont and as far away as Canada and Michigan.
A bagpipe and drum corps led the procession, the kilted drummers beating out a mournful cadence as the hearse was escorted by a marine, an airman, soldiers and troopers. The pipers played a somber version of the Marines' Hymn when the casket was carried into the church.
Inside the church, Longobardo's Air National Guard uniform, decorated with medals, hung to the side of the altar.
Hubbard, who celebrated the Mass, drew a link between the massive scope of the 2001 national tragedy and the death of a single New York state trooper.
"In the wake of 9/11, I think all of us are more aware of the grave dangers all our public servants experience every time they don their uniform," Hubbard said. "We have come together to mourn the passing of another fallen hero who was also a victim of a terrorist attack."
Pataki called Longobardo a "hero in the very truest sense of the word." The governor, who just hours earlier stood at Ground Zero to mark the anniversary of the terror attacks, said Longobardo and other public servants should be honored in the same way as the police, firefighters and Port Authority agents who died on Sept. 11.
"Yesterday, at the World Trade Center, we welcomed first responders from across America back to New York," Pataki said. "I told them that in swearing that oath and putting on that uniform, they had earned a place on a long line of heroes — the men and women throughout our nations history that made America great and free.
"Joe Longobardo shall forever have his rightful place on that line."
"The Gray Rider statue outside the State Police Training Academy in Albany bears the words: `Honor, Integrity, Courage, Tradition,"' Pataki said.
"To Joe Longobardo, those hallmarks of the New York State Police were more than ideals etched on a statue — they were a blueprint for a life well-lived, and Joe lived his well indeed."
Longobardo, 32, never regained consciousness after he was shot in an ambush Aug. 31 as he and another trooper staked out a wooded area near the home of Phillips' former girlfriend in Chautauqua County.
Phillips, who escaped April 2 from a jail in Erie County, eluded police for five months, stealing cars, breaking into homes and sheltering with friends and relatives until he was tracked down and captured Friday. A day before he was caught, Phillips was added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Gaunt and exhausted, he appeared in courts in two counties Saturday to face the first of many charges against him, including attempted murder.
The trooper shot with Longobardo, Donald Baker Jr., remains in critical condition at a Pennsylvania hospital. A third trooper, Sean Brown, has returned to duty after being shot in June near Elmira in the Southern Tier.