Female Philadelphia firefighter being laid to rest
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Like lots of kids, Joyce Craig wanted to be a firefighter when she grew up.
After motherhood and a stint as a transit driver, she entered the male-dominated ranks of the Philadelphia Fire Department and quickly captivated colleagues with her fearlessness and determination.
Craig, who on Tuesday became the first female member of the department killed in the line of duty, advocated for her comrades and forged lasting friendships that extended from jokes in the early mornings of quiet overnight shifts to sleepovers amongst their children.
All the while, mourners said at Craig’s funeral Saturday, the 11-year veteran pushed them to show the same tenacity she did eight years ago after being severely burned — injuries that required skin grafts and a two-month hospital stay. She begged off light duty in favor of the front lines at one of the city’s busiest engine companies.
Craig, 36, died after being trapped in the basement of a burning row home where an elderly woman was later rescued. She is survived by a 16-year-old son and a 16-month-old daughter.
“Joyce is a hero not only because of her death in service of one of our citizens. Joyce is a hero because of how she lived in service of our many citizens,” Mayor Michael Nutter told mourners at a packed North Philadelphia funeral home.
Craig will be posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant and flags will remain at half-staff throughout the city for the remainder of a 30-day mourning period, Nutter said.
Michael Craig called his sister a warrior and encouraged mourners to join in the singing of Alicia Keys’ “Superwoman” to close the service.
Despite his sorrow, he said he felt “great honor” knowing his sister died helping save a life while doing the job she first started telling people about at age 5.
“There’s no more honorable way that I could imagine there would be for her to go,” he said.
Hundreds of firefighters from departments across the continent, including contingents from Chicago and Toronto, watched the service on a large screen outside.
They applauded as Nutter announced Craig’s promotion and saluted as pallbearers — including a fellow female firefighter, Lisa Forrest — carried her flag-draped casket past crying relatives to the back of a fire truck.
Firefighter Garret Sahm, one of Craig’s best friends from the department, was on duty with Craig eight years ago when she was badly burned. And on Tuesday he helped pull her from the burning home and performed CPR as firefighters tried to save their fallen comrade.
“I was mad at God that day. I was mad at him,” Sahm said. “But when it was all said and done I had to thank him because he allowed me one last chance to touch my friend.”