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Brothers killed in mass shooting named Pittsburgh honorary firefighters

November 26, 2018

There was no loafing at Station 18 when Chief David was on duty.

The last time David Rosenthal visited the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire’s Squirrel Hill station was two weeks before his death.

“He would walk by and if he noticed someone he recognized, he’d come over,” said firefighter Mike Dibattiste.

The Rosenthal brothers, David and Cecil, 54, were among the 11 victims killed in the Oct. 27 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue on Wilkins Avenue -- just a few blocks from his beloved firehouse. David stopped by the firehouse for 40 years.

“He was like one of the guys,” Dibattiste said.

So Monday night, they honored one of their own when Dibattiste, Battalion Chief Edmund Farley and others went to the Rosenthal home and named the brothers, who both had special needs, honorary Pittsburgh firefighters.

“We walked in, and there had to be 40 or 50 people in the house,” Farley said. “We walked through all of them - silence. We presented David’s mom with some tokens of appreciation from the fire department.”

Farley presented the family with two Jewish Bibles, as well as badges and patches for the two brothers.

“It really changed the mood of the house. It brought some joy in a time of great grief,” he said. “With everything that happened on Saturday, you got to forget about it for a couple of minutes and focus on the people -- on the victims that this happened to.”

Dibattiste said there was never a question as to how they would honor the brothers.

“He was part of our firehouse, and that was just the only thing to do,” he said. “I didn’t want him to be forgotten, and he never will be.”

David’s beginnings in the firehouse outdated many of the firefighters working there now, and when he passed by two weeks before the shooting, Dibattiste invited him inside.

“I introduced him to two of the younger guys who work here,” he said. “David was always a ‘lieutenant,’ a ‘captain,’ a ‘chief,’ so I told the guys they better be on their toes.”

Sometimes he would leave a parting shot: “No loafing today, guys.”

That was how many at the firehouse remembered him: “No loafing.”

When they heard of the shooting, they immediately thought of the brothers.

“When we found out, it just devastated us,” Dibattiste said. “He was part of our firehouse his whole life.”

He remembered just about everyone he met in the firehouse, going back decades, Dibattiste said. Just weeks ago, he’d asked about three retired firefighters by name - first and last.

Steve Kinneavy, a now-retired firefighter from the Northumberland Street station, said David was already a fixture when he began there in 1980.

The guys used to tease him, asking him about a girlfriend. He’d joke right back, Kinneavy said.

“He’d ask, ‘How about Steve Kinneavy’s girlfriend,’” he said. “He liked to joke back with us. He was quiet and reserved, but he never hesitated to laugh or tease you a little bit if he could.”

He’d sometimes help them with the trucks, and he’d eat with them too, sometimes -- always “sometimes,” Kinneavy said, because David was shy and quiet.

“He’d come in so quiet, you wouldn’t even know he was here for 10 minutes,” he said. “He would just like to be a part -- be around everything.”

David would often stop on his way to synagogue -- the other place he spent much of his time.

“That was his life: Coming to the firehouse and going to synagogue,” Kinneavy said. “We’d always kid him. I’d say, ‘Say a prayer for us; say a prayer for the firemen,’ and he always said he would.”

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