“I stand here filled with pride and sorrow. Sorrow to have lost two brave men, and loving fathers and devoted husbands. And I feel proud and blessed for having the honor of knowing them. They came to work every day to protect the kids and families of Bridgeport. They kept us safe. They came to work to help their neighbors and total strangers, putting their lives on the line.” – Mayor Bill Finch
Bridgeport, Conn. (July 24, 2015) – Today, Mayor Bill Finch, Fire Chief Brian Rooney, and scores of firefighters, family, and community members honored two fallen heroes at a memorial service for fire Lt. Steven Velasquez and Firefighter Michel Baik, who died in the line of duty fighting a July 24, 2010, house fire.
“July 24, 2010, is a day neither I nor anyone here today will ever forget. It was five years ago but it feels like yesterday,” said Mayor Bill Finch. “It is difficult to know the right words to say because they seem inadequate given how honorably Steve and Mich led their lives and how tragically and suddenly they left us.”
“I stand here filled with pride and sorrow. Sorrow to have lost two brave men, and loving fathers and devoted husbands. And, I feel proud and blessed for having the honor of knowing them. They came to work every day to protect the kids and families of Bridgeport. They kept us safe. They came to work to help their neighbors and total strangers, putting their lives on the line.”
The Fire Department held a memorial mass at St. Ann’s Church followed by a ceremony at the Engine 7/Ladder 11 firehouse, where Velasquez and Baik were assigned on Ladder 11.
Velasquez and Baik were searching for possible victims during the fire on Elmwood Avenue five years ago when they put out mayday calls.
Family members, including the fallen firefighters’ families, attended the ceremony.
“We come together in sorrow but also, we in the firefighter family, come together with a swelling of heart,” said Chief Rooney. “For who knows better than our family what it’s like to share those risks that exist when the alarm bell rings. I just want to say God bless to the Baik and the Velasquez families and may God watch over them.”
On the one-year anniversary, the department erected a five-foot, granite monument in their memory. It bears the symbol of the Bridgeport Fire Department along with a firefighter’s helmet and the names of the fallen firefighters.
“A firefighter’s dream is to help others and return safely to our families,” said Chief Rooney. “But we know that is a dream and not a guarantee.”
Velasquez left his wife, Marianne, and two children. Baik left his wife, Laurie, and three children.
The ceremony included a pipe and drum band, an honor guard and scores of firefighters in dress uniforms standing at attention.
“Each night when I go to bed and I tuck in my kids to sleep, the thing I am 100 percent grateful for is the brave men and women of the Bridgeport Fire Department,” said Mayor Finch. “The tradition, the strength, the fortitude, the courage is something that none of us should ever take for granted.”
Salina Velasquez, who was a young child when her father died, drew tears from the gathering when she spoke about her dad.
“My daddy was a brave man and he was my hero,” she said. “I miss him every day and I love him dearly.”