The bell tolled nine times, signifying the end for Greg Hennessey. The end of his service as a firefighter. The end of his duty to the community, reports The Orange County Register.
The bell ceremony, attended by an estimated 1,200 people, echoed through the silent worship center at Saddleback Church, where hundreds of Hennessey’s firefighting colleagues — some from as far as New Hampshire and New York — friends and family members gathered to say goodbye.
Hennessey died Jan. 20 after being found unconscious and in cardiac arrest by his crew at Orange County Fire Authority Station 45 in Rancho Santa Margarita. He was 49.
“He was one of those guys that you want as a neighbor. He was always out there helping out. He lived a life of service,” OCFA Capt. Steve Concialdi said.
On Tuesday, firefighters saluted as a procession of five fire vehicles from the Rancho Santa Margarita station drove to the church from Station 54 in Foothill Ranch, making their way between two firetrucks hoisting a massive American flag.
Hennessey’s family was escorted into the church by the Fire Authority’s Honor Guard and Pipes and Drums. On the worship center stage amid bouquets and wreaths: an urn with Hennessey’s cremated remains, a single family photo, a portrait of the firefighter, and his turnout gear.
Brandon Hennessey, Hennessey’s 19-year-old son, cradled a framed American flag that earlier had been draped over his father’s casket.
“It was hard emotionally, but it’s amazing seeing how many people really care — how many people my dad actually touched,” Brandon Hennessey said. “It’s really touching to see how big of a mark he left behind, and I kind of want to live up to that now. I want to leave a good mark.”
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