William Lake, 44, had celebrated his 20-year anniversary with the FDNY on September 10th. He had switched shifts to spend Monday night buying the meal at the firehouse.
Over the years, rescue scuba dives had damaged his hearing and the back of his hands were scarred from digging through concrete to rescue two workers from a collapse at a construction site, but his adage was “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.”
Lake was also part of the FDNY’s team of rescue experts that went to Oklahoma City. I quote the following story from an essay read at his funeral: “ A group of federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents was standing vigil at the Oklahoma site, refusing to budge until their partner was brought out of the wreckage. They pointed to the spot where he’d been when the building blew, a perilous, hard-to-reach spot beneath what firefighters came to call the ‘Mother Slab’ of precariously dangling concrete. Lake, Evers and their partners went to work and got the agent’s remains out within a couple of hours. They stood silently at attention as the dead man’s colleagues carried him away. ‘This was just one of the victim removals we were involved in, but for some reason we took this very personal,’ Lake recalled.” It was an experience that “made you proud to be an American.”
A Harley rider, 50 bikes were expected at his memorial. 700 came.