The melancholy skirl of bagpipes and tolling of a cemetery bell were the backdrop on a wintry Saturday as hundreds of firefighters mourned fallen Philadelphia colleague Joyce Michelle Craig, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
They came from across the United States and from Canada, the line four deep outside the West Oak Lane funeral home. Each paused briefly at the casket to remove his or her hat or bow or salute.
“When Joyce first got her hand on that study manual to take the test to be a firefighter, she studied that manual day in and day out,” her brother Michael Craig said, as an overflow crowd listened from the street. “That dedication wasn’t spur-of-the-moment. It was from the muscle. It was from her heart.”
Craig, 37, an 11-year veteran of the department and a mother of two, died Tuesday while helping fight a fire in West Oak Lane. Assigned to Engine 64 in Crescentville, Craig was working overtime with Engine 73 when she became trapped in the basement of the dwelling. An elderly woman who lived in the house was rescued.
Craig, one of Philadelphia’s 150 female firefighters and paramedics, was the city’s first female firefighter to die on duty.
Family said she had dreamed of the job since she was a child. Even suffering burns early in her career that left her bedridden for two months did not deter her.
“She returned to work and ultimately not only proved herself an equal to the men in this department, she proved herself one of our finest firefighters,” said Joe Schulle, president of Firefighters and Paramedics Local 22.
With spunk and wit, she excelled in the male-dominated field, friends and colleagues told the crowd. But inevitably every eulogy centered more on her dedication to her family, to her 16-month-old daughter, Laylani, and 16-year-old son, Mekhi.
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