Christian Philip Engeldrum
Sergeant, United States Army
December 01, 2004
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs - (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died November 29, 2004, in Baghdad, Iraq, when their military vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Both were assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, New York, New York.
Sergeant Christian P. Engeldrum, 39, of Bronx,
For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG AND FIRE COMMISSIONER NICHOLAS SCOPPETTA MOURN THE PASSING OF FIREFIGHTER CHRISTIAN PHILIP ENGELDRUM KILLED IN ACTION WHILE SERVING IN BAGHDAD, IRAQ
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta today joined the members of the New York City Fire Department in mourning the death of Firefighter Christian Philip Engeldrum of Ladder Company 61 in the Bronx. Engeldrum, a 5 1/2–year veteran of the New York City Fire Department and a Sergeant in the Army National Guard, was killed on Monday while on active military duty in Iraq. Preliminary reports state that Firefighter Engeldrum was killed when the vehicle he was riding in came under attack outside of Baghdad. The exact details surrounding the incident have not been released by the Department of Defense.
He is the first City employee to die in Iraq.
“Christian Engeldrum spent his life protecting the people of this City and protecting democracy,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “As a Firefighter, a Police Officer and a decorated member of our military, there was no risk he wasn’t willing to take for his fellow New Yorkers and his fellow Americans. Christian honored us with his life and commitment to public service. I join all New Yorkers mourning his loss and pray that his family finds comfort in the innumerable ways he touched so many lives.”
“My deepest condolences go out to the Engeldrum Family at this tremendous loss,” said Commissioner Scoppetta. “Christian served his country well in the armed services, as a police officer and firefighter. His commitment to serving his country sets the example for all of us. He will be greatly missed by this Department and by all who had the honor of knowing him.”
Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Scoppetta also joined members in wishing for the speedy recovery of Firefighter Daniel J. Swift of Ladder Company 43 in Manhattan – who was riding in the same vehicle with Firefighter Engeldrum. Firefighter Swift sustained shrapnel wounds and has been transported to Germany for medical treatment. He is expected to fully recover.
Engeldrum, 39, began his career in with the City of New York as a New York City Police Officer assigned to the 47 th Precinct. After successfully completing the New York City Fire Academy in 1999, he was assigned to Engine Company 89 in the Bronx. Firefighter Engeldrum also served in Engine Company 58 in Manhattan and was most recently assigned to Ladder Company 61 in the Bronx. Engeldrum received one FDNY unit citation on July 15, 2000, as a result of his company’s successful rescue of two civilians at a fire.
As an active member of the U.S. Army from 1986-1991, Christian served in Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and received many awards for his service to his country, including Southwest Asia Service Medal with Bronze Service, Army Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Army Lapel Button, Sharpshooter Badge, Parachutist Badge, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Achievement Medal and the NCO Professional Development Ribbon.
A resident of the Bronx, Christian Engeldrum
is survived by his wife Sharon and their two sons.
Army National Guard Sergeant Christian Engeldrum was also one of the hundreds of firefighters who raced to the world trade towers.
"There's nothing you can say, other than here's somebody who risked his life every day to protect us on the streets of New York."
The sign draped outside of 39-year old Christian Engeldrum's New York city's station has been replace with a sign of mourning. This after Engeldrum was killed when his vehicle came under attack outside Baghdad last Monday.
"Chris he was a great fireman, he was 100% soldier, he loved his country, loved what it stood for. He loved being a fireman, he was a lucky man he got to do what he loved."
"He put 200% into everything he did, it wasn't a little bit, he did everything to its fullest, he lived life to its fullest, that's why he was there."
Engeldrum's parents call Las Cruces home but this National Guard solider spent most of his life in New York City. In this well known photograph you can see him hoisting a U.S. flag at ground zero. Before joining the fire department, Engledrum was a New York City police officer. Since 1986, Engledrum has been a highly decorated member of the military. He will be burried at the Arlington National Cemetery next week.
New York, New York: December 4, 2004 - About 10,000 mourners were expected Saturday to attend Tuesday's New York wake and funeral for a soldier killed in Iraq, the New York Daily News reported.
Christian Engeldrum, a firefighter as well as a soldier, will be remembered Tuesday and Wednesday at a wake and Thursday at his funeral in St. Benedict's Church in the Bronx.
He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Funeral arrangements for the soldier killed
alongside Engeldrum, Spec. Wilfredo Urbina, of Baldwin, Long Island, New
York, have not yet been set.
Army National Guard Sergeant Christian Engeldrum, 39, was killed Monday outside Baghdad when a roadside bomb ripped through his Humvee.
Engeldrum, who was raised in California, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
He was among the hundreds of New York City firefighters who raced to the World Trade Center after two hijacked planes slammed into the buildings in the terrorist attacks in September 2001.
His mother, Lenora Engeldrum, said her son wanted to go to Iraq because of what he saw that day.
His father, Philip Engeldrum, said the terrorist
attack had a big impact on his son.
In a massive outpouring of grief and respect, 10,000 mourners are expected to honor fallen firefighter and soldier Christian Engeldrum at a wake and funeral in the Bronx next week.
The funeral director, James McQuade, will be among them.
"I watched Chris grow up," McQuade told the Daily News yesterday.
"I watched him grow up to be a fine gentleman with a fine family. It was a privilege."
McQuade, who runs Schuyler Hill Funeral Home, met Engeldrum 20 years ago when the future hero was just a skinny kid working in his grandparents' E. Tremont Ave. gas station.
Although Engeldrum went on to join the Army, become a cop, join the FDNY, get married and have children, McQuade can't help thinking of him as that young man.
"It's a shock," he said. "A kid from the neighborhood doing good ...."
Engeldrum, a sergeant in the Army National Guard, was killed in action in Iraq on Monday. His body was flown home to the U.S. Thursday and his family made funeral arrangements yesterday.
A wake will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at Schuyler Hill and a funeral Mass will be offered at 11a.m. Thursday at St. Benedict's Church.
Engeldrum, who worked out of Ladder 61 in the Bronx, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Msgr. Ed Whelan called the firefighter's widow, Sharon, this week to say he's praying for the family - including the baby she's carrying.
"There will always be a special relationship between the unborn child and Chris," he said. "Although they won't see each other physically, they will see each other with the eyes of the heart."
Funeral arrangements for the soldier killed alongside Engeldrum, Spec. Wilfredo Urbina, of Baldwin, L.I., have not been set.
By MICHAEL GANNON, BILL HUGHES AND CARA MATTHEWS
COURTESY OF THE JOURNAL NEWS
December 2, 2004)
NEW YORK — The call came over the radio, and the Bronx firefighters quickly pulled on their equipment and jumped in their rigs, pulling out of the Co-op City firehouse with sirens blaring.
Life went on yesterday for the heavy-hearted men of Engine 66 and Ladder 61, a day after news of their friend and colleague Christian Engeldrum's death in Iraq.
Engeldrum, a 39-year-old Bronx resident and sergeant in the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, was killed Monday outside Baghdad when his Humvee rolled over an explosive.
The attack also killed Pfc. Wilfredo Urbina of Long Island and wounded another New York City firefighter, Yonkers resident Daniel Swift.
Swift, a 24-year-old medic, was recovering from leg and eye injuries yesterday in a German hospital. Engeldrum, a father of two and a veteran of the first Gulf War and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is the first New York City firefighter to be killed in Iraq.
"It's still just a bad dream for all of us," said firefighter Mark Klingner, 32, one of Engeldrum's closest friends at the Bronx firehouse.
Purple and black bunting hung over the entrance of Engeldrum's firehouse yesterday, and its flag, at half-staff, flapped violently in the shrill breeze. Inside, memorials to Engeldrum were everywhere — his firefighter's jacket and helmet attached to a U.S. flag hung over pictures of him at Ground Zero on Sept. 11 in the back of the house; a table near the front office held pictures of him flanked by vases of flowers and flickering candles.
Engeldrum's heartbroken widow and two sons visited the firehouse yesterday but declined to talk with reporters, said Fire Department spokesman James Long. They arrived in time to hear the "Four Fives," a tradition in which a fallen firefighter's name is read over the department's teleprinter for all emergency response agencies to hear, he said.
"She wanted to come see the guys," said firefighter Mike Schiraldi, 39, another of Engeldrum's close friends.
Firefighter Paul Vitelli solemnly looked over photographs of Engeldrum on the memorial table, showing him with friends from the firehouse at a 2002 Christmas party and at a Yankees game in April.
Vitelli said he knew Engeldrum only a short time, but the two bonded because they both had first served in the New York City Police Department.
"He was a great guy," Vitelli said. "He'd do anything for you."
The mood was less somber at Ladder 43 in East Harlem, where colleagues were relieved to receive a call from Swift about 10:30 a.m. He told them he expected to be home by the holidays.
"We are all just so happy that Danny is OK. But we also feel horrible for the family of the guy from the Bronx," said friend and Ladder 43 firefighter John Davies, 25. "Our prayers go out to them."
Davies said "Swifty" told them he was injured when his Hummer drove over a roadside home-rigged bomb — a 300-pound artillery shell — splitting the vehicle in two. Swift's first response was to grab his gun, but he quickly started helping another injured soldier, Davies said.
"I told him he was a hero," said Davies, who graduated from the fire academy with Swift and joined Ladder 43 in July 2002. "He said, 'Don't give me that B.S. I'm no hero.' "
Engeldrum and Urbina were killed in the front seat, Swift told his mother, Kate Daly of Kent. There were three soldiers in the back seat, and Swift was the only one who was conscious. Although he was handicapped by the eye and leg injuries, he cleared another soldier's airway.
It is typical for opposition soldiers to open fire on anyone who survives an attack, so Swift thought he was going to get shot in the back and die, his mother said.
"He's a medic, and he had to do what he had to do. But he's that kind of kid," said Daly, who also called her son a hero.
Swift is receiving intravenous antibiotics to ward off infection. Other than cuts on his face, the pupil on his right eye was damaged. The good news is that doctors were able to pry open the eye. Swift couldn't see with that eye after the attack, but he can see colors now, his mother said.
"I was so terrified that he was going to lose that eye," she said.
Swift was only in Iraq for about a month, Daly said. Before that, he was unloading ships in Kuwait.
Swift's father and Daly's ex-husband, John Swift, was scheduled to fly to Germany last night and visit his son, Daly said. She will travel to Texas, where the Army said her son eventually will be transferred.
Daly said she has slept a few hours here and there since hearing the news. Men at St. Christopher's Inn, a substance-abuse center in Garrison where Daly works as a nurse, have been praying for her son, she said.
Firefighter Michael Kennedy, who works with Swift at the Manhattan ladder company, said he spoke to the reservist two weeks ago. Swift told his fellow firefighters that Baghdad was becoming increasingly dangerous as insurgents fled the U.S.-led assault on Fallujah.
Funeral arrangements had not yet been set for Engeldrum, but Long, the FDNY spokesman, said he would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. No word had come on when his body would be sent back.
Neighborhood residents were eager to express their sympathies at Engeldrum's firehouse yesterday.
Co-op City resident Lydia Colon stopped by with her sister, Wanda, to drop off flowers. Both paused briefly and prayed, making the sign of the cross when they had finished.
Colon said the firefighters had assisted her once at her home, when she had become ill. When she heard of Engeldrum's death, she felt an obligation to pay tribute, she said.
"I was shocked and sad," she said. "It was
someone in the neighborhood, someone we depend on."
Army National Guard Sergeant Christian Engeldrum’s experiences on September 11, 2001, convinced him to take the fight against terrorism to the Arab world.
Engeldrum, 39, was among the hundreds of firefighters who raced toward the World Trade Center after two hijacked planes slammed into the Twin Towers. He spent four days digging through the wreckage in search of survivors.
On Monday, Engeldrum became the first New York City firefighter to die in Iraq since the war began. Engeldrum and another soldier, Wilfredo Urbina, 29, died when a roadside bomb containing 300 pounds of explosives ripped through their Humvee and threw Engeldrum’s body 30 feet.
Three other soldiers were injured in the attack.
Engeldrum’s parents traveled from their Las Cruces home Friday to the East Coast for his burial.
It was his father, Philip Engeldrum, who spoke about the impact 9-11 had on his son’s life.
“He doesn’t want his sons fighting in the streets of New York,” Philip Engeldrum said. His wife agreed.
“Chris very much wanted to be there (in Iraq),” Lenora Engeldrum said, “because of what he saw in New York at the World Trade Center.”
Engeldrum’s parents spoke at their Trails West home in Las Cruces Friday morning as they hurriedly packed before traveling to Virginia. Two American flags waved in the breeze Friday outside their home.
The soldier, who grew up in Ventura, California, was buried later Friday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Engeldrum is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their two teenage sons. Sharon is pregnant with the couple’s third son.
In addition to his recent service in Iraq, Engeldrum was decorated with medals for his actions as an Army soldier in Operation Desert Storm in 1990. He was on active duty from 1986-1991.
He was a five-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department who had previously served as police officer.
On 9-11, a New York Daily News photographer captured Engeldrum, as a New York City firefighter, steadying a ladder that another firefighter climbed to hang a torn American flag from a bent light pole above the wreckage of Ground Zero.
Engeldrum’s parents said they support the war in Iraq and President Bush, and believe their son died for a noble cause.
Philip Engeldrum said he found comfort in knowing
his son probably died instantly.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants Engeldrum’s death declared a line-of-duty death, which must be approved by the New York Legislature. If it’s approved, Engeldrum’s widow will receive his full pension and benefits — as if he died fighting a fire in New York, rather than on the battlefields of Iraq.
“Christian Engeldrum spent his life protecting
the people of this city and democracy,” Bloomberg said. “This designation
will honor his sacrifice and make sure his family knows that the city he
served so well will never forget his heroism.”
“He was the ultimate patriot, my husband,”
she said. “He loved his country, he loved the fire department. He was very
Funeral arrangements for Engeldrum, the 39-year-old father of two and Army National Guard Sergeant killed Monday outside of Baghdad, are pending concrete news of his body's return home, said Lieutenant Mike Bonner of Engine 66 and Ladder 61, Engeldrum's firehouse in Co-op City. Engeldrum responded to the scene of the World Trade Center collapse and was a veteran of the first Gulf War. The Schuyler Hill Funeral Home in the Bronx is handling arrangements.
An elaborate funeral featuring full Fire Department and military regalia is tentatively planned for St. Benedict's Roman Catholic Church in the Bronx, Bonner said. Afterward, the 50 firefighters from Engine 66 and Ladder 61 plan to board buses and travel to Arlington, Virginia, for Engeldrum's burial planned at Arlington National Cemetery, he said.
"It's an oft-used phrase that we're a family, and it's true," Bonner said. "You eat with them, you go to fires with them. Your life is in each other's hands."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, is pressing to award Engeldrum's pregnant widow his full firefighter's pension, as if he had been killed in the line of duty. The special legislation, which is currently being drafted by the city law department, must first gain City Council and state Legislature approval, said Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Bloomberg.
Todd Alhart, a spokesman for Governor George Pataki, said the governor supported the idea and looked forward "to reviewing the legislation in more detail."
"We applaud the mayor for recognizing the value of Sergeant Engledrum's sacrifice and service, not just to the people of New York City, but to all Americans," Alhart said.
Specialist Daniel Swift, a firefighter with Ladder 43 in East Harlem and a National Guard medic, remained in a German hospital yesterday, recovering from leg and eye injuries, said his mother, Kate Daly of Kent.
His leg wound is improving, enough that doctors do not have to operate, and he is able to walk with a crutch, Daly said.
"Daniel's doing much better," said Daly, reached at St. Christopher's Inn in Garrison, an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment program where she is a nurse. "He should be in the states Saturday."
Swift was hit below the right knee with shrapnel as a result of the bombing, and his right eye was injured.
His pupil was damaged, but he is seeing colors and light out of the eye now, Daly said.
Daly said she got a call yesterday morning from her son in Germany. Her ex-husband, John Swift, flew to Europe on Wednesday to join Daniel.
Daly said she will head to Texas as soon as she finds out exactly where and when her son will arrive.
At Engeldrum's Co-op City firehouse in the Bronx yesterday, an outpouring of community support continued.
People left flowers on a table holding pictures of Engeldrum, under a flag he had signed by his regiment in Iraq and sent to the firehouse.
Outside the firehouse, Bonner left a notebook for passers-by to sign with messages of support for Engeldrum's friends and family. Co-op City resident Awilda Davilla was one who did.
"I never met your love one. I could see he
was very brave," she wrote. "He is not with you, but I know his spirit
is always around."
Two New York Area Firefighters Killed in Iraq
By ALAN FEUER and ROBERT HANLEY
Courtesy of the New York Times
December 1, 2004
Ever since Christian Engeldrum shipped off to the war last month, a yellow sign has hung from the eaves of Ladder Company 61 in Co-op City in the Bronx. The sign read: "We support our troops. Ft. Engeldrum, L-61, Now Serving."
Yesterday, the members of his company were forced to remove that sign. In a solemn ceremony, they replaced it with black-and-blue memorial bunting.
Firefighter Engeldrum, 39, was killed while serving with the New York National Guard on Monday when a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy outside Baghdad. Another New York City firefighter, Daniel Swift, of Ladder Company 43 in Manhattan, was riding in the same vehicle and was injured in the attack. He is expected to recover.
In a separate attack on Sunday, a volunteer firefighter from Cranford, New Jersey, Stephen C. Benish, 20, was killed while on patrol in Ramadi.
The casualties came during one of the deadliest months in the war. According to the Pentagon, at least 135 United States troops had been killed in November, matching April as the deadliest month since fighting began in March 2003.
Firefighter Engeldrum was the first New York City employee to die while serving in Iraq, Fire Department officials said. He was a Sergeant in Company B, First Battalion of the 105th Infantry. He was called up by his unit in May and arrived in Iraq on November 2, 2004, his family said.
Two candles burned beside his photo on a table outside Ladder Company 61 yesterday afternoon. The men of his unit stood at attention as the bunting was displayed, their hands cupped at their waist.
Inside the firehouse, a small shrine had been erected in his honor. It included a photo of Firefighter Engeldrum on September 11, 2001. According to the caption, he had helped raise the first flag over ground zero after the attack.
"Chris was the core of this house - everybody looked up to him," said Firefighter Mark Klinger, who had worked with Firefighter Engeldrum for the last five years. "An excellent firefighter, a good father, a good friend. That's all I can say."
Near the bay of the firehouse, there is another photograph - this one showing Lt. Charles Gabarini, the only member of the firehouse to have died on 9/11.
Firefighter Engeldrum had completed his service with the National Guard, but re-enlisted. He did so, his colleagues said, in outrage at the Sept. 11 attack. "It had an effect on him," said Lt. Brian Horton of Ladder Company 61. "His country was attacked, he was a soldier, and he wanted to defend it."
Firefighter Engeldrum is survived by his wife, Sharon, and his two sons: Sean, 18, and Royce, 16. Royce's birthday, fire officials said, was the day his father died.
The firefighter last spoke with his family the night before Thanksgiving.
"He was glad to hear my voice," Mrs. Engeldrum recalled. "He was tired. He couldn't talk. He was going out on a mission. He just called to see if everything was O.K. here."
At City Hall, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg praised Firefighter Engeldrum for having served not only in the Fire Department, but also in the Police Department. "Christian Engeldrum spent his life protecting the people of this city and protecting democracy," the mayor said in a statement. "As a firefighter, a police officer and a decorated member of our military, there was no risk he wasn't willing to take for his fellow New Yorkers and his fellow Americans."
Thirty city firefighters are on active duty overseas. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 103 have been called to active duty.
Firefighter Swift, who served with A Company of the 69th Infantry, was sent to Texas for retraining in the summer, his fellow firefighters said. He is being treated for his wounds in Germany before returning home.
He visited his firehouse in East Harlem for the last time in September.
Firefighter Swift is known around the firehouse as Swifty. He plays on a hockey team and is an all-around good guy, his colleagues said. Every two weeks, Firefighter Swift called his buddies from Iraq.
Firefighter Swift had even asked his colleagues in New York to send flame-retardant hoods to him in Iraq. He hoped the hoods could help his fellow soldiers when they were attacked.
"I thought he'd come home without a scrape on him," Firefighter John Davies said. "He's just one of those guys, you know?"
Private Benish, who served with the Second Infantry Division, had joined the Cranford Volunteer Fire Department only months after graduating from Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark, N.J. He served with the department from the summer of 2002 until he went to boot camp in March 2003, said Leonard Dolan, the department's chief.
Chief Dolan said he was impressed with the firefighter's resignation letter. It read, in part, "I have a strong desire to serve my country in these troubling times," the chief said.
In other letters to his colleagues written from Iraq, "He never expressed one bit of apprehension or fear," Chief Dolan said.
Private Benish wrote in his letters of entering a mosque and finding weapons and explosives, Chief Dolan said. He also wrote of coming home on leave.
"I can't wait," the chief quoted him as writing. "That's all I think about."
In one of his final letters, Private Benish wrote of combat.
According to the chief, he wrote: "I'm just
happy, I guess, at getting a lot more of them rather than them getting
Thousands expected at firefighter's funeral
Thousands of firefighters, including a large contingent from other departments around the country, are expected to line the streets of a Bronx neighborhood in ceremonies during the next few days for a colleague killed in Iraq last week.
Most of the 11,500 firefighters and officers of the city's Fire Department will participate in a full "line of duty" funeral Thursday for Christian Engeldrum, 39, a Sergeant in the Army National Guard and firefighter from Ladder Co. 61 in the Bronx.
The requiem Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. at St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church at 2969 Otis Ave. in Schuylerville.
As firefighters stand at attention outside the church, a firetruck draped in purple and black will carry Engeldrum's coffin to the church. The services are expected to be projected outside through a speaker.
After the service, the department's Emerald Society Pipes and Drums will lead the caisson from the church under the sound of bagpipes as department personnel line up along the street.
A wake for Engeldrum will be from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. today and tomorrow at Schuyler Hill Funeral Home at 3535 E. Tremont Ave. Military burial services will be 3 p.m. Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
Engeldrum, a former city police officer and five-year member of the Fire Department, was killed Nov. 29 when the vehicle he was riding in was destroyed by a roadside bomb outside of Baghdad. His body was flown home Thursday.
Among those planning to attend the funeral
is wounded firefighter Daniel Swift, 24, of Ladder Co. 43 in Manhattan.
Swift, who suffered shrapnel wounds to the leg and eye in the same blast,
was transported to a military hospital in Texas over the weekend.
December 7, 2004
President Bush was so moved by the death in
Iraq of hero New York firefighter Chris Engeldrum, he took the time to
make a personal phone call to his grieving widow.
Engeldrum — a veteran of the first Gulf War who later risked his life to rescue fellow New Yorkers on 9/11 — was the first city firefighter to die in the war.
"The president was very kind and called to offer his condolences," Engeldrum's father, Philip, said of the Saturday call.
"I think the man has some genuine empathy, and I'm glad he's the president. He is concerned for the people who are over there [in Iraq] and for their families at home," he said.
"Chris was an older person — he didn't have to go . . . He [Bush] felt enough about it to call."
He said his daughter-in-law Sharon, 37, who is pregnant, chatted with the President for about five minutes, discussing the well-being of her two teenage sons and the progress of the war that has so far claimed the lives of more than 1,200 American troops.
The White House confirmed the call, but would not comment further.
Engeldrum, 39, was killed by a roadside bomb that ripped apart his Humvee as it traveled in a convoy near Baghdad. Thousands of grief-stricken FDNY colleagues and friends are expected to join the Engeldrum family in an outpouring of grief at a funeral Mass at St. Benedict's Church in The Bronx at 11 a.m. on Thursday. His body was returned to The Bronx yesterday.
Among the mourners will be the fireman's best friend and fellow National Guardsman, Mike Brown, who was traveling in the Humvee behind when the bomb went off.
Brown's wife, Rose, said her husband — who will be godfather of the hero's third child — was on his way back from the war zone yesterday after being granted permission by the military to attend the service.
Eulogies will be delivered by Engeldrum's oldest son, Sean, 18, and a buddy from his beloved Bronx firehouse. He'll be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.
Engeldrum — known to his friends as "Drum" — also leaves behind a younger son, Royce, who turned 16 on the day of his dad's death; his parents, Philip and Lenora; and sisters, Leann and Kim.
Engeldrum — who had also served for two years in the NYPD — was revered by his pals at Ladder Co. 61 in The Bronx for his "can do" attitude.
In July 2000, he was cited for bravery for saving two people from a house fire, and on 9/11, he again put his life on the line at the burning World Trade Center. He'd arrived with his unit just as the first of the towers was falling.
He spent endless days digging through the smoldering debris.
"He loved his country, and he loved being a fireman," one teary friend recalled.
December 9, 2004
NEW YORK -- A New York firefighter who responded to the World Trade Center attack and died in Iraq on active duty for the Army was remembered Thursday as "the true definition of a hero."
At a funeral Mass overflowing with police, firefighters and uniformed military officials, Sergeant Christian Engeldrum was recalled as an extraordinarily brave public servant with a kind heart.
"Chris, your courage and bravery inspire us all," said firefighter Michael Schiraldi, a friend. "The memory of your smile fills us with joy and laughter. ... You are the true definition of a hero and a great friend."
Engeldrum, who also was a former police officer, was killed Nov. 29 when his vehicle came under attack outside Baghdad. He was the first city employee of any kind to die in the U.S.-led war.
He left behind two teenage sons and a wife pregnant with their third child. One of the sons, 18-year-old Sean, gave an emotional eulogy for his father, receiving thunderous applause from the mourners.
"My dad is the greatest man I will ever know," he said. "I only hope to be half the man he was." He added: "He was brave and courageous all the time, but able to cry over a sick dog."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the Mass, held at St. Benedict's church in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx.
So did Daniel Swift, a New York firefighter who was injured in the same attack. In 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, 39, was a five-year fire veteran who served with Ladder Co. 61 in the Co-op City section of the Bronx. He responded to the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
Besides serving in Iraq, Engeldrum served in the Army from 1986 to 1991, including Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 war to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion.
Schiraldi said Engeldrum, known to his firefighter brethren as "Drum," was known for his antics and for telling "Army horror stories" each day. He said Engeldrum would smoke a cigarette and begin, "Let me tell you a story ..."
"The guys adored him so much, we just let him finish and ramble on," Schiraldi said. "Not one of us wants to believe Chris is gone from us without warning."
Outside, thousands of firefighters and police officers lined up to hear the service over loudspeakers. An Army honor guard saluted as the casket was loaded off a fire truck and carried up the steps and into the church. A band of bagpipers played "Amazing Grace."
"He was always helpful to new soldiers coming on board," Spc. Gregory Burke, who served in Engeldrum's platoon, said outside the church. "He kept his eye out for them always."
Engeldrum is to be buried Friday at Arlington
Sean Engeldrum took his place at his widowed mother's side, the man of the family now that his dad is gone, never again to play with him or tease him or show him that even the toughest man cries sometimes.
The 18-year-old shed his share of tears yesterday alongside thousands of mourners who gathered under a bleak sky amid the colorful, sad rituals of the FDNY and the U.S. Army to say farewell to Firefighter Christian Engeldrum, the city's citizen soldier killed in action in Iraq.
"My dad is the greatest man I will ever know," Sean said in the Bronx church. "I only hope to be half the man he was. He was brave and courageous all the time, but able to cry over a sick dog."
As Engeldrum's flag-draped coffin arrived on his Ladder Co. 61 truck, accompanied by 63 FDNY bagpipers and drummers in bright red coats and dark plaid kilts, his pregnant widow, Sharon, was pale and drawn, her shoulders slumped against the bitter wind blowing outside St. Benedict's Church in Throgs Neck.
She was flanked by Sean and his 16-year-old brother, Royce. The coffin was handed to seven National Guard pallbearers who slowly carried it up the steps.
A few feet away, Firefighter Daniel Swift, who served with Engeldrum in the Manhattan-based "Fighting 69th" National Guard unit and tried to save him, stood trembling in dress FDNY blues, leaning on his crutch, a red spot of blood staining the bandage on his wounded right eye.
Engeldrum, 39, who grew up in the east Bronx neighborhood, was killed November 29, 200, outside Baghdad when an improvised bomb planted in the road blew up the Humvee carrying him, Swift and three other members of the 69th Regiment.
Inside the packed church, the most touching moment came when Sean Engeldrum spoke.
"My earliest memories are playing Matchbox cars with my dad. He was always there to play, and he was always there when I needed help," Sean said.
"He kidded me that he would throw me out when I turned 18, but I said, 'I'm sorry, I'm too happy here.'"
Msgr. Edmund Whalen told the mourners of Engeldrum's life of service, as a kid pumping gas, as a member of the volunteer ambulance corps, a city cop, a firefighter and a soldier.
"In his own way, he took care of ... his brothers and sisters in Throgs Neck, in the city, and throughout the world," Whalen said, adding that Engeldrum lived up to his given name. "He bore the name to far-flung areas of the world, safeguarding democracy."
Whalen pointed to Engeldrum's fire helmet on a table next to his coffin as a symbol of how he fought violence as a firefighter and a soldier.
Mayor Bloomberg noted that some 1,000 civil servants are serving in the armed services.
"There was no danger Christian was not willing to risk. ... He was, as his wife said, the ultimate patriot," Bloomberg said. "He represented the best of who we could be."
Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said Engeldrum, who helped raise the first ragged flag at Ground Zero after the terror attacks, "gave more than most men who live twice as long."
Firefighter Michael Schiraldi of Ladder 61 said Engeldrum was "a child in a man's body" who told Army stories over and over, but no one minded. Schiraldi spoke of losing his great friend "literally in a flash, in a heartbeat," before he broke into sobs.
The family of Wilfredo Urbina, who also died in the blast, attended the funeral, as did the family of Felix Vargas, a Bronx man wounded in the attack.
The other man on the Humvee, Richard Cornier, is in grave condition with head wounds. Yet another member of the 69th, Henry Irizarry, was killed December 3, 2004.
The sudden, heavy toll on the storied, Manhattan-based 69th was evident on the faces of the Guardsmen and women who filled a section of the church.
Engeldrum, who was a Staff Sergeant, is to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery today.
After the Mass, his coffin was borne to the fire truck caisson by the military pallbearers.
The Fire Department pipers played "Going Home," the traditional firefighter funeral song, and a soldier blew taps. As the fire truck rolled slowly away, the pipers broke into the "Garry Owen," the proud, spirited Irish theme of the Fighting 69th.
11 December 2004:
Hero 'Drum' given final salute
The long, sad goodbye to New York soldier-Firefighter Christian Engeldrum came to a ceremonial end yesterday amid a sea of his fellow heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.
More than 200 cops, firefighters and National Guardsmen - many weeping openly - stood at attention with Engeldrum's grieving family around his gleaming silver coffin as it was set among the nation's bravest in their final resting place.
Engeldrum's pregnant wife, their two teen sons and his mother held hands tightly during the 21-gun salute and fought back tears as a military bugler played the mournful taps.
Leaden skies, a steady drizzle and a chill in the air added an extra touch of somberness to the ceremony, but one of Engeldrum's buddies from Ladder 61 thought it was just perfect.
"I think Drum would get a real kick out of
this kind of send-off," whispered Fire Lt. Michael Owney, 47. "This is
a fitting tribute to a great soldier and a great man."
ENGELDRUM, CHRISTIAN PHILLIP
Posted: 5 December 2004 Updated; 7 December 2004 Updated: 10 December 2004 Updated: 11 December 2004 Updated: 6 January 2005 Updated: 21 August 2005
Updated: 12 February 2011
Photo By M. R. Patterson, February 2011