Yankees Honor Fallen Yonkers Firefighter Joyce

Lower Hudson Journal - October 26, 2009

by Mike Dougherty

NEW YORK - In the weeks since Yonkers firefighter Patrick Joyce was fatally injured while investigating a report of residents trapped in a three-alarm blaze, the moments of silence have become part of a new daily routine.

This one was special, though.

Before the Yankees stepped onto the field to play Game 6 of the American League Championship against the Angels on Sunday night, nearly 50,173 fans stood in silence, honoring the fallen hero. Joyce was an Eastchester resident and a Bronx native.

Two of his brothers, Marty and Peter, stood behind second base, flanking the Yonkers Fire Department color guard, while 40 members of the department stood in dress uniforms behind home plate as Chuck Mangione played the national anthem.

All of them maintained a brave face in a bittersweet moment.

"I think it's an honor the Yankees would take the time at such a busy point in the season," said Marty, who serves the FDNY on Ladder 56 in the Bronx. "We don't take it for granted. It's a special event for us. It's solemn in a way because we miss him, but we're going to be uplifted since they are honoring somebody very special to us."

A photo of Joyce was shown on the Diamond Vision screen in center field as his wife, Tara, and daughters, Isabella and Charlotte, watched from near the visitors' dugout. His parents and other family members were also on hand. The Yankees provided them 25 tickets for the occasion.

It perhaps took a little divine intervention to make the moment happen.

"We live our lives hour by hour, day by day now," said Peter, a firefighter with Engine 36 in Yonkers. "We have our good days and bad days. Today is at least a happy day for us.

"And the only way we were going to have this day was if the series came back. I keep saying, 'It was the Angels that brought it back to New York.' It was a very stressful game the other night. They didn't make it easy on us, but we're very thankful to the Yankees."

Yankee Stadium has long been a source of special memories for the Joyce brothers.

"Most of them involve attempting to sneak in," Marty said with a grin. "It's an extension of our childhood, just coming down to the Stadium and rooting for the Yankees. ... To be honest, Pat was not a diehard Yankees fan who followed it day by day. It was part of your being, growing up here. The Yankees were just as important to you as your parish. ... We would run big group trips from the neighborhood. It was more a social gathering than anything else. It was a way to get people together."

Patrick Joyce was forced to exit a third-floor window during the Oct. 2 fire on Waverly Street along with two others, Lt. Joe Murphy and Firefighter William Kanych, who are still recovering. The 39-year-old was known for his many charitable ventures, most notably Ronald McDonald House.

A foundation, The Patrick Joyce Memorial Fund, has been established to carry on that work. Donations can be made at patrickjoycememorialfund.com.

"He also helped rebuild the homes of people who had been burned out in fires he went to," Marty said. "There's a lot people don't know. He spent as much time as possible giving back to his community and people around him, and we appreciate the Yankees doing the same thing here tonight.

"Patrick would forgo his ticket tonight so somebody else could be here. He would get more pleasure out of giving his ticket to a brother firefighter. That's what Patrick was all about, not so much the day-to-day statistics, but making sure everybody had a good time."