Services begin for fallen firefighter
On Saturday, a steady stream of fire trucks could be heard and seen traveling down George and Talcott Streets in Owego, N.Y., en-route to services held at the Owego Free Academy complex for Captain Matthew J. Porcari, the Owego firefighter who was killed on Jan. 21 while answering a call for mutual aid to a structure fire on Chamberlain Road in Newark Valley, N.Y.
Throughout the services, in which members of the community were able to call on the family from noon to 5 p.m., guests filled the corridors and hallways with hundreds arriving to pay their respects.
Firefighters from Tioga County and beyond donned their uniforms to provide service throughout the day, and to support their fellow firefighters.
According to Owego Fire Department Assistant Chief Jim Morris, firefighters arrived from all around the nation. "We had one fireman that came from Los Angeles," said Morris, "and we had another that came up from Kentucky."
In a strong show of support, firefighters from Webster, N.Y. also arrived. Morris noted that there were over three dozen from Webster. Porcari, in December, organized a crew to travel to Webster, which is a municipality in Rochester, N.Y., to show support for the firefighters ambushed there. Other departments arriving included Ithaca, N.Y., Niagara County, and many others.
And the services were impressive, and nothing less than the honors earned by Porcari for his years of service and his dedication to the Owego Fire Department.
With a full parking lot at the school, in which area firefighters assisted with parking and traffic control, a flag was draped by the entrance to the school, and another was hung at half-staff. Inside the school, guests were immediately greeted by a line that extended down a long corridor, and eventually into the gymnasium where flowers lined several walls, and a flag draped casket sat with fire department members standing guard on either side. The guards would shift every 15 minutes.
Just prior to the entrance into the gymnasium, a slide show projected with photos of Porcari taken over the years; bagpipe music played in the background. For some attending the services, seeing the photos of Porcari led them to tears.
A guest book, which was placed in front of the entryway into the gymnasium, was nearby a table that offered fire patches, and asked for donations to support the department.
Inside the gymnasium literally dozens of floral arrangements surrounded the flag draped casket, and photo collages put together by Porcari's family were placed around them. The family, who were receiving guests and friends, greeted each with love and thanks for all the support. Overwhelmed, it was evident that family members were stricken by grief and emotions. For them, the love and support from the community would get them through another day.
Most impressive of Saturday's service was the firefighters who were watching over Porcari, and their continual rotation. When members from outlying fire companies arrived, they were immediately greeted and then taken directly into the gymnasium to offer Porcari a final farewell.
In the line, where guests would wait to offer condolences to the family and honor Porcari, many shared their stories and remembrance.
Donna and David Day attended the services Saturday, and talked of how Porcari had recently joined their church and attended as recent as last Sunday, the day before he was killed in the line of duty.
Others waiting in line talked of being in a bowling league with Porcari, and of how much he loved bowling. Another woman just looked at guests arriving and said, "We lost a good one."
Funeral services will continue today, at 2 p.m. at the Owego Middle School auditorium located at 3 Sheldon Guile Blvd. in Owego, N.Y. The service will run approximately one hour and 15 minutes, and a reception will follow in the Owego Middle School Cafeteria. The procession from the school to the funeral home will be restricted to family members, members of the Owego Fire Department, and invited agencies only. All other agencies are asked to remain at the school for the reception.
The family has requested that donations in memory of Captain Matthew Porcari be made to the following: Porcari Children Memorial Fund, c/o First Niagara Bank, 18 Lake St., Owego, N.Y. 13827; or Croton Hose Company No. 3, c/o Tom Donovan, 71 Talcott St., Owego, N.Y. 13827.