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Thousands appear for NYC firefighter’s funeral

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of uniformed firefighters from across the country gathered Thursday for the funeral of a fireman who the mayor said was “a true hero.”

Lt. Gordon “Matt” Ambelas died Saturday night searching for victims in a burning, cluttered Brooklyn high-rise apartment building. His was the first Fire Department of New York line-of-duty death in more than two years.

Firefighters line the street as the body of Lt. Gordon Ambelas is brought to the church for his funeral in the borough of Staten Island, Thursday, July 10, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his eulogy that the 40-year-old FDNY veteran was dedicated, hardworking, kind and, above all, a family man. That theme was poignantly accentuated when fire helmets from Ambelas’ old commands were placed on the heads of his daughters Gabriella, 8, and Giavanna, 5.

While “no one feels it more than the family that has suffered this loss,” said the mayor, “all members of the FDNY – but really, all New Yorkers – are feeling this moment with pain and sadness, because we’ve lost a true hero.”

Ambelas had been promoted to lieutenant 10 months ago. Throughout his career he helped the city through its darkest hours, including the recovery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Superstorm Sandy.

Firefighters from Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis were among those who traveled great distances to salute Ameblas’ casket. It was lowered from a caisson draped in a department flag and taken into a Staten Island church by pallbearers, followed by his wife, Nanette, and their little girls.

Afterward, the firefighters were lined up for miles as he was transported for a private burial.

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