ASHBURN — Hundreds of firefighters filled the hallways, chapel and auditorium of St. Rita High School in Ashburn Friday morning to say goodbye to Chicago fireman Daniel Capuano, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel saying "he put his duty above danger."
Said the mayor during the funeral: "He endured the smoke so others could be safe. So while our hearts are broken because of Dan's loss, they are full of gratitude for the life he lived."
Capuano, 42, of Mount Greenwood was killed early Monday after falling two stories down an elevator shaft at a burning South Chicago warehouse. He leaves behind a wife, Julie, and three children — Amanda, 16, Andrew, 13, and Nicholas, 12. The family sat close together in a pew during the services.
Emanuel sat in the next pew over with Fire Commissioner Joe Santiago.
"On behalf of a grateful city and nation, we are here with you," said Fr. Tom McCarthy of St. Rita High School. “None of us want to be here. But we are here, and we are here to celebrate life: the life of a very good man. If you are not here to celebrate that, you need to leave right now."
The casket of the 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department was placed at the front of the chapel at 7720 S. Western Ave. in Ashburn.
McCarthy described Capuano as a dedicated father, firefighter and man of faith. He and wife Julie had celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary on July 20. Firefighters read heartbreaking letters from Capuano's wife and kids during the service.
“I’m just not sure what I’m going to do," Julie Capuano wrote. "I will miss your hands and face. You were my first true love and you will always be my love. You were everything to me and I will love you always and forever."
McCarthy gave a message to each of the children, urging them to remember their dad is still with them.
“Your dad was and always will be your biggest fan and your biggest supporter,” he said to Amanda. To the boys: “Every time you play a game, I’m going to feel sorry for the other team, because you are going to have one more guy on the ice – your dad.”
Noting his involvement as a hockey coach and active volunteer in the community, "Dan took devotion to another level," Emanuel said.
He was able to calm situations down: "I could have used him at the Emanuel house on Thanksgiving," the mayor said.
"Dan's values were Chicago's values. While his life was devoted to family and faith, it was also defined by service and sacrifice," Emanuel said.
The fire commissioner described Capuano as a man who "loved the service and respected the people that needed help."
Capuano, who joined the fire department in 2001 as a paramedic and became a firefighter in 2005, "was a funny guy," his boss added.
"If you worked with him for only a few minutes he'd have you laughing about something he said or something he did," Santiago said.
Thomas Ryan, president of the the fire department union Local 2, said to his family: "Dan was your hero, but he was our hero, too."
According to Joe Roccasalva, a fire department spokesman, smoky conditions made it difficult to see as firefighters sought to extinguish the blaze at 92nd Street and Baltimore Avenue on Monday morning.
Following the fatal fire, city officials found the warehouse had had an elevator removed without the proper permit. The city is working to have the building demolished, and the case against the property owner, Anilroshi LLC, has been referred to the Cook County state's attorney.
Late Thursday, Capuano's wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the property owner.
After the funeral Mass, a procession of police cars and fire trucks lined up to take Capuano's body to be buried at Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery & Mausoleum in Alsip.
A fire truck was followed by fire officials marching in sync as bagpipes played and dozens of onlookers stood by. "Amazing Grace” was played as the flag from atop the casket was folded up. Fire Commissioner Santiago handed the flag to Capuano’s widow.
“I wish he could see how many people came out to support us," Amanda wrote in a letter read at the funeral mass. "I wish you could see how many people love you, daddy."
Hundreds of cars in funeral procession. CPD, CFD, State Police, suburban police. Stretching ~a mile down Western. pic.twitter.com/r0f7HiNHc7— Alex Nitkin (@AlexNitkin) December 18, 2015
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