Filled with grief yet unwavering in their faith, the family of fallen firefighter Michael Davidson embodied the spirit of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, Timothy Cardinal Dolan said Sunday at Easter Mass.
Speaking to a packed house at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dolan said he was inspired by the strength of Davidson’s wife, Eileen, their four children, and other firefighters.
Davidson, 37, died last month fighting a five-alarm fire in Harlem.
“It was such a piercing example of the power of the resurrection,” Dolan said. “I saw it in those firefighters. I saw it in Eileen and his kids. Boy, their sorrow was profound, the missing him was deep. And yet, they didn't give up, they kept going and I thought, ‘this is what Easter is about.’
Dolan described his moving encounters with the Davidson family to an audience of around 2,500 people in the same church where the firefighter’s funeral was held last week.
“That’s what Easter is,” Dolan told worshipers. “Life over death. Good over evil. Love over hatred. And they exemplified it for me.”
The cardinal said he’d spoken with Eileen and her children since the funeral and urged worshippers to continue supporting the family.
Funeral for fallen FDNY firefighter Michael Davidson
He noted that Eileen was a breast cancer survivor.
“They can’t think we’re just with them at the moment of tragedy,” Dolan said. “We gotta be loyal to them.”
Dolan described the “almost oppressive loss” and sadness he felt at the funeral.
“There were tears galore and heads were down in silence,” he said.
The March 23 fire started at a building where actor-director Edward Norton was shooting a new movie, “Motherless Brooklyn.”
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation. A faulty boiler in the building’s basement was being investigated as the cause of the fire, a source previously said.
Davidson, at the nozzle end of a firehouse, was the first firefighter inside and became lost on the way out of the inferno. The FDNY veteran died of smoke inhalation.
Dolan said Davidson’s funeral, which was attended by thousands of uniformed firefighters, was a moving part of Holy Week.
“Folks, take my word for it. That funeral mass was Good Friday. Like the first Good Friday, the darkness was thick, the floors on this cathedral seemed (to be) trembling with an earthquake of sadness,” Dolan said.
“Michael Davidson was a strong, strapping man of 37 years old. A man who family members and friends unanimously and enthusiastically claimed to be a man of honor, and virtue and nobility. A humble man of duty and values.”
But he admired the strength of Eileen and her family — and Davidson’s fellow firefighters — who carried on with dignity.
“After the funeral, the firefighters went back to work,” Dolan said. “And Eileen and the kids went back home. Because life goes on. Because they have faith and hope. And the sun came up the next morning. Because of that faith and hope. Because of Easter.”
The resurrection of Christ represented hope that “good ultimately conquers evil, that hope triumphs over despair, that faith is stronger than doubt, that love is victorious over hate and that life trumps death,” Dolan said.
After the service, Dolan steered clear of questions about his opposition to the Child Victims Act extending the state’s statute of limitations on claims of child sex abuse.
But he did have a message for New York’s immigrants living under President Trump’s immigration crackdown.
“They’re welcome. And in all their fear, in all their trepidation, even in their sorrow for being away from home and in the confusion about the future, they listen to Jesus: Be not afraid.
“Their faith is an inspiration. We love them. We need them,” Dolan said.
He hoped that the big turnout for Easter service would continue through the year.
“Thank God they’re here. I hope they come back!” Dolan said.
“It’s like going home to your mom’s house for Easter. You say ‘Hey, I enjoy this. I think we’ll do it every Sunday.’”