National Guard Member Mensah, Fire Hero Laid to Rest

Bronx firefighters honor Army National Guard member Emmanuel Mensah, 26, who died after saving residents in New York’s deadliest fire in 25 years. Photo by David Greene

by David Greene

Several hundred firefighters, police officers and members of the U.S. Army National Guard converged on Belmont to pay their respects to Private First Class Emmanuel Mensah, who perished saving residents during a horrific Bronx blaze that claimed 13 lives.

Mensah, 26, was remembered during a mass attended by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Mensah died in the 5-alarm blaze at 2363 Prospect Avenue on December 28.

Distraught father Kwabena Mensah gets a hug from National Guard member during funeral service for PFC Emmanuel Mensah, 26, during church service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Photo by David Greene

The several hundred attendees at the service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church included family and friends, a contingent from Mensah’s native Ghana as well as members of the U.S. military. A group of neighborhood schoolchildren, residents of the immediate area and at least one of the residents Mensah helped save were also in attendance.

Mensah, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2012, had just completed his basic training and was visiting the Prospect Avenue building for the holidays, when a child playing with a stove caused the deadliest fire in New York City in the last quarter century. According to witness accounts, Mensah ran back into the 5-story building several times, saving at least ten lives.

A priest attempts to comfort heartbroken father Kwabena Mensah, during his son’s funeral. Photo by David Greene

In her eulogy, Sherri Kommey, Mensah’s aunt said, “How do I sum up everything about you in a few words on this page. I couldn’t and I still can’t.” Kommey added, “The darkest day of our lives was the day after the fire, you were nowhere to be found.”

In a rare showing of solidarity to a non-member, members of the FDNY stand at attention as the flag-draped coffin of Private First Class Emmanuel Mensah is taken from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Photo by David Greene

As members of the Army National Guard carried out Mensah’s flag-draped coffin, several female family members began sobbing uncontrollably, as a priest comforted Mensah’s heartbroken father Kwabena Mensah.

Mensah was scheduled to be begin training with the 107th Military Police Company at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn in January, before additional training in Virginia.

On February 16 the U.S. Army awarded Mensah the Soldier’s Medal, the highest non-combat award given and New York State awarded him with the Medal of Valor. Mensah was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Irene Estrda, a Chaplin and community activist who has been assisting displaced families, stated after the funeral, “I think that everybody under this administration that has been under the Democrat reign have no skills, when it comes to crisis, relief, emergencies, training, accountability… none! None of them have it.”

Estrada added, “You can name someone to a position, but nobody follows up, no one picks up the phone when the victims call. They (local officials) don’t sit down with them, they don’t visit with them to see what the other needs are… God forbid we have a really big catastrophe, where are these people going to turn?”

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