By Kerry Wills and Larry McShane New York Daily News
FDNY Lt. Martin Fullam, from his first toxic minute at Ground Zero until his 9/11-linked death last week, never stopped fighting for his fellow first responders.
Fullam, killed by a rare pulmonary illness caused by his time at the World Trade Center, was remembered at an emotional funeral Saturday for his endless leadership, courage and generosity.
“When he could no longer fight fires, he continued to fight for all the FDNY members who responded on September 11,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.
“He fought for them so their illnesses would be recognized, and so they and their families would be compensated. . . . Marty knew this was for everyone who puts on the FDNY uniform, who risk their lives to save others.”
Hundreds of fellow firefighters in dress blues flanked the front of Our Lady Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church, Staten Island, for the farewell to Fullam.
The FDNY veteran, 56, was surrounded by family members when he died Monday at his Staten Island home. Fullam, who had three daughters, was diagnosed in 2005 with polymyositis, a rare autoimmune disease, and pulmonary fibrosis.
“He never uttered the words ‘why me,’ never complained of his plight,” said his wife, Trisha. “He evolved into a bigger man and a better person than he had ever hoped to see.”
Cassano brought his fellow firefighters to Ground Zero on 9/11, searching desperately for survivors in the rubble despite the toxins that choked the air.
“He sacrificed himself for them,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Conway in his eulogy for Fullam. “He was willing to give himself to save those other people.”
After working on the still-burning pile in lower Manhattan, Fullam felled ill. But he kept fighting — even after a 2009 lung transplant — and testified before Congress in favor of the Zadroga Act.
“Marty was a fighter right to the end,” said retired firefighter Bob McLaughlin. “He never worried about himself. He worried about the men who would follow him.”
He said nearly 1,000 firefighters are battling similar post-9/11 lung ailments.
Firefighter Gary Gibbs, who worked alongside Fullam before retiring in 2002, said the lieutenant battled until the end.
“He suffered every day,” said Gary Gibbs, who worked at Ladder 87. “Thank God for him.”