Hundreds gathered Friday to pay tribute to a fallen Chicago firefighter and married father of three who was killed in the line of duty earlier this week.
Services for Daniel Capuano, who died Monday after falling through an elevator shaft while battling a blaze at a warehouse on Chicago's South Side, began at 10 a.m. at St. Rita High School Chapel. Seas of colleagues, family and friends flooded to 7720 South Western Avenue in mourning, with several Chicago leaders, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante.
“Thanks, Dan, for being our hero,” Father Tom McCarthy said during a eulogy at the service.
The nearly two-hour service was filled with laughter and tears as family and friends remembered 43-year-old Capuano as a loving father and a brave man.
"It has been said that the first act of bravery by any firefighter is taking the oath to serve that everything after that is all in the line of duty. Dan Capuano embodied that very ideal," Emanuel said during the service. "He put his duty above danger. He endured the smoke so that others could be safe. And with care and compassion in his heart, he rushed into the chaos of a burning warehouse in south Chicago and made the ultimate sacrifice for the city he loved. So while our hearts are broken because of dan’s loss, they are full of gratitude for the life he lived, for the example he set and for the heroic service he rendered for the city of Chicago."
Capuano's fellow firefighters took the stage during the service to read letters from his three children and his wife.
In the letters, his oldest son, Andrew, wrote "[My dad] would always say to me, 'Someday when I am gone, you will be the man of the house and I want you to take care of your mother, brother and sister."
"I would always respond, 'Yes I will because you taught me everything I need,'" the letter read.
Capuano's wife Julie cried quietly as her letter was read.
The letter read in part, "We've been married for 20 years, and I wanted to be with you for 100 more years."
The letter talked about how the couple was supposed to be on a vacation in Florida before coming home to celebrate Christmas.
"I am broken inside by losing you Dan," it read. "I’m just not sure what I’m going to do. I will miss your handsome face, your funny sense of humor, your loving touch, your kisses and our conversations together. I will miss everything that our lives were together. You were my rock, my strength, my everything. You were my first true love and you will always be my love. You were my amazing husband, my best friend, a loving father and a dedicated firefighter. You were everything to me and I will love you always."
Alderman Matthew O'Shea said the service was a chance for the city and state to rally around the Capuano family in a time of tragedy.
“Dan was one of us,” O’Shea said. “A father, husband, coach, volunteer. An all around great guy.”
Following services, hundreds of firefighters lined the streets in a procession that traveled to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, located at 6001 W. 111th St. in Alsip, where the 42-year-old was laid to rest.
On Thursday evening, thousands flocked to pay their respects at a visitation for Capuano.
"It's intermittent smiles remembering the joys, tears because it happened," said family friend Tom Schonauer.
Capuano was among the firefighters dispatched to a three-story warehouse fire at 9213 S. Baltimore just before 2:30 a.m. after heavy smoked could be seen billowing out of the rear of the building.
"He was motivated, always eager to learn," said Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Mark Nielsen. "You are looking at a young, healthy man who's no longer with us. It's sad to see."
While fighting the flames, a floor gave out under Capuano's feet and he was dropped to the structure's basement, and Capuanoan elevator shaft to the building’s basement. He was carried out of the burning building by a team of firefighters, before emergency responders arrived to fight for his life. He later died at the hospital from his injuries.
"Chicago has lost one of its bravest in Dan Capuano," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday. "He made the ultimate sacrifice so Chicago's residents could be safe. For that, there are no words that can truly express our sorrow for his loss nor our gratitude for his service and sacrifice to the City of Chicago. The thoughts and prayers of a grateful city are with Dan, his family, and his fellow firefighters at this difficult time."
The Capuano Memorial Fund has been established for anyone who would like to make donations to the family.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered the owners of the building didn't have proper permitting for some construction work at the site, city officials said.
"Danny's a great kid and wonderful father," said family friend Patte Schonauer. "It should not have happened."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.