Last March, Floral Park resident and 15-year member of the New York Fire Department (FDNY), Michael Davidson was killed after responding to a five-alarm fire in a Harlem building that was being used as a movie set for an upcoming Ed Norton and Bruce Willis film Motherless Brooklyn.
Davidson, who was assigned to Engine Company 69 in New York City, responded to the blaze in the basement of the five-story building on St. Nicholas Avenue and West 149th Street. According to fire officials at the time, Davidson was assigned to the nozzle and became separated from his group inside the building. He was later found unconscious from severe smoke inhalation and was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries leaving behind his wife and four young children.
Davidson, who was cited for his life-saving services four times within the department, was from a family of firefighters. His father, Robert, was a 26-year veteran of the FDNY and his brother, Eric, is an 11-year veteran of Fire Engine 88 in the Bronx.
In honor of his memory and marking the one year anniversary of his death, Davidson was honored during a special ceremony in Harlem at the Engine Company 69 firehouse last week. At the ceremony was his wife Eileen, along with his family, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
“Lieutenant Michael Davidson died as he lived; as a hero.” said de Blasio during the ceremony. “He was a hero that devoted every fiber in his being in helping others, to protecting others and protecting this city that he loved. Today, everyone is gathered here as a solemn task of carrying on his memory, and we do that today with a full heart.”
Nigro also addressed the crowd and spoke about Davidson’s exemplary leadership and his braveness in the face of danger.
“Over time, he became the one that others could look up to by taking probies and junior members aside to train them and make them better,” said Nigro. “Mike was truly special and it’s evident he was beloved by all. We’ve all seen how this house has rallied around Mike’s family and you have honored his memory through your efforts and that continues today with the plaque we dedicate.”
Good friend and fellow firefighter Peter Driscoll from Engine 69 spoke about his friendship with Davidson.
“To have friends is a wonderful thing,” said Driscoll. “Then one year ago we lost the best friend anyone could ask for. Today, we honor Mike with a plaque who was an amazing firefighter. Mike was the kind of firefighter that I aspire to be. I will always remember how great he was at this job. When new guys come into the firehouse and they look at the plaque and they ask ‘who is Mike Davidson?’ I will tell them he was the best fireman I ever knew.”
Davidson’s wife, Eileen, through tears spoke about how it hasn’t been easy finding her way through life without her husband.
“We mourn today because our love ran so deep and we mourn because we cannot imagine how we will go on without our Michael,” said Eileen. “Today is a day to remember and to honor Michael the way he would want us to; in love. Michael’s love and friendship extended across so many avenues and locations. He really was the best friend you could have. There was a light in this man. One that burned so bright that even if you only met him once you remembered him.”
Eileen and Michael first met in their early 20s, when Eileen was three months into her chemotherapy treatments.
“He offered me a friendship, a compassion, an understanding and a love that was beyond measure,” Eileen said. “He would sit with me when I was too sick to move. He would make me laugh when I wanted to cry and he would make me feel beautiful when I was too terrified to look at my own reflection. It was just who Michael was.”
Eileen concluded by saying that Michael was the anchor for their family and the hero of their lives.
“He was the anchor of my soul,” said Eileen. “I ask you to think of Michael and me, not just today, but in your most challenging hours and make a promise that you will weather your storms together and anchor yourselves in one another. Hold tight and high five, and never, ever give up.”
Afterward, members of the FDNY, who briefly took off their caps out of respect, unveiled the plaque that is dedicated to Davidson in front of his family. During the plaque unveiling, the FDNY bagpipers played TAPS, which provided an evident somber feeling throughout the room. The plaque that honors Lieutenant Davidson will eventually hang proudly in the Engine 69’s firehouse.