St. Philip Neri fire

Rescuing The Blessed Sacrament


The alarm bell rang at Engine Nine;
a fire in a church; can we get there on time?
I steered the big rig and sped with haste;
The siren wailing; no time to waste;
We neared the church and saw the smoke;
Lieutenant Stifter, over the radio spoke:
"Give me a second alarm; we have people trapped;"
We worked with frenzy, 'til our strength was sapped.
While the truckers and hosemen attacked the flames,
Search and rescue was not in vain.
The door of the church was thrown open in haste;
Tony Dentico emerged with a saddened face.
He yelled for me to give him a hand: a beautiful child
Dressed in black, he handed me;
I soon discovered--it was Sister Lilian Marie.
I placed her limp body on the church's front lawn;
With all my training, I could not help;
She would not see another dawn.
Guilt and frustration came over me;
Is this the way that things must be?
Father Weinmann was found--still alive;
The Sacred Host on the floor by his side.
That fire never left me, I always recalled;
I must be rid of it--once and for all.
Many years later, twenty-five to be exact,
I went back to church, to get my life on track.
Father Bonsignore's sermon told of a priest and a nun.
Who gave their lives to save the Sacred Host;
I no longer was laden with so much frustration;
They became Angels who sacrificed themselves to give the utmost.
Father later told me that they were watching over me;
I must not carry guilt for what was to be.
Tony and I held an Angel in our arms;
She is in heaven now, away from all harm.
My thanks to Father Bonsignore,
His sermon did wonders for a troubled soul;
Who carried guilt and frustration--but never more.

(written by Peter Fantigrossi - 1994)
a fireman at the scene of the St. Philp Neri fire