‘It’s a brotherhood': Thousands mourn loss of Baltimore firefighter
Firefighters, family remember Firefighter Rodney William Pitts III for his kind, generous spirit
By Jonathan M. Pitts
BALTIMORE — Firefighters and police officers in their dress uniforms stood three deep beside the driveway of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on North Baltimore’s Charles Street as ten of their brethren maneuvered a flag-covered casket down the front steps of the church.
A throng of civilians stood around and behind them, their eyes riveted on the pallbearers as they wheeled their fallen comrade through.
And members of the unit that Firefighter/EMT Rodney Pitts III served with before losing his life in a fire last week lifted his coffin onto the back of a truck he knew well, Engine No. 29, before securing it in for the journey to the cemetery that awaited.
“That moment was overwhelming,” said Wanda Thomas, the mother of Marcus Miller, a Baltimore firefighter who accompanied Pitts’ mother, Monica Gant, during the somber procession. “You knew this was the last time he would be on that truck. But we know that this happened while he was doing something that he loved doing. We hope he’s at peace.”
Rodney William Pitts III, a city native who had been in service as a firefighter and EMT with the Baltimore City Fire Department since August, died of injuries he suffered in a blaze that tore through several rowhouses Oct. 19 in the Woodmere neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore.
The impact he made during that short tenure with the department was evident before, during and after the 10 a.m. funeral service Friday.
Baltimore Police in cars with flashing lights cordoned off every street for a mile in each direction. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles were parked bumper-to-bumper, two deep, along North Charles Street from Cold Spring Lane to Northern Parkway.
Most of the city’s 1,600 firefighters were present, according to department spokesperson Kevin Cartwright, prompting the force to call reinforcements in from several surrounding counties to serve in their place Friday. Firefighters and police from as far away as Boston, Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia, took part in processions and formations.
“It’s a brotherhood,” said John Brinkley Sr., a retired Baltimore City firefighter who traveled from his home in Salisbury, when asked why he made the trip.
By the time the service got under way, the 2,000-seat sanctuary was full with uniformed personnel on one side of the church, civilians on the other.