Transcript: Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner O'Neill Deliver Remarks at the Funeral of Detective Steven McDonald

January 13, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you, Monsignor Romano.

Your Eminence, thank you so much for opening up this greatest of churches for this is the fitting place for the services for a man as great as Detective Steven McDonald. We thank you for your warmth and all you do for us.

Today there is a unity in our city, a unity of sorrow at the passing of this great man, but also a unity of celebration of a man who was with us on this Earth who had lived a life so well. Here among us, a living example – everything that we aspire to be as a people and a city embodied in one man, Steven McDonald. We feel pain, and we feel joy that we knew him. We learn from him. We learn the right way to live from him. Directly, he touched thousands of lives – tens of thousands – but in a greater way millions were moved by his example because he became the greatest embodiment of what it means to be a member of the NYPD. He was synonymous with all that is great about our Police Department and our city. And he showed that the work of policing was profoundly based on love and compassion for your fellow man and woman, and he lived it every day.

I offer not only my own condolences but the condolences of eight-and-a-half million New Yorkers to Steven’s extraordinary family. Patti, on behalf of all New Yorkers, I thank you for having stood by him every step of the way, for having been all that anyone could ask for in a partner in life, for allowing him to be the extraordinary voice and example he was for us all.

Conor, I thank you for living out the legacy, for now continuing his great work, and for expressing his faith in everything you do.

And to his father, David, thank you for having raised this great man, for all the lessons you taught him that then were taught to all of us.

To all his family, to all his friends – our condolences and our solidarity.

And to the family of the NYPD, I know everyone feels that they’ve lost a part of themselves today, but I know you also feel strengthened that Steven McDonald lived among us and taught us so well.

Scripture says so much, but there are two clear commandments to us all that are so very, very hard to live out in this world we inhabit. One so simple – love the Lord. And the other we hear so often – love your neighbor as yourself. They sound simple, and we know they are profoundly complex, particularly given the challenges of the modern world. But we all watched, brothers and sisters, we all watched Steven McDonald live out these commandments. He lived them perfectly. He lived them completely. It was not easy. Imagine if all that your body had been able to do was taken from you. Imagine how easy it would be to fall into self-pity, to lose any sense of hope or energy, to simply recede from everyone around you.

But Steven McDonald was a hero – a hero who overcame all the pain, all the discomfort, all the challenges every day, every hour because he had a sense of mission that he was supposed to live out those commandments, he was supposed to show us all it could be done.

And then he went and did it every day against all the odds for 30 long years. A true hero in every sense and a hero even before because he chose to put on the uniform and put his life in harm’s way as his father had before him, as his grandfather had done before him, as his son does now.

His speech – left halting. His message – clear as a bell. The clarion call – something calling us to a place higher than we imagine we could reach.

That message from the gospel governed his life – a message centuries and centuries old that he made fresh and real for us all.

We need to remember what can be done, and I cherish the last conversation I had with Steven McDonald last year because it was a reminder that we all could go farther – his encouragement, his love for the men and women of the NYPD, his belief that we could heal the wounds of the past, his own living example of forgiveness. When I heard his words, it filled me with hope.

Last Saturday, at the hospital, I stood and held hands with Steven’s family – a family so filled with faith, with belief, with love. Their strength – so inspiring. We prayed together and I could feel what had sustained him, and this family deserves not only our support for all the years ahead, they deserve our thanks. Steven didn’t do this alone. The faith came from his family and the family sustained his extraordinary work and commitment.

Finally, I want to speak to you, Conor. We’ve had several chances these last days to speak and I want to speak to you as a father because, first of all, you made your father so very proud by continuing this extraordinary family legacy. But by doing it the way he would have done it – with love, with compassion.

It may feel very, very difficult to go on without him and it will feel, sometimes, very difficult to live up to his example, no doubt, but you’ve already been given that great gift of his example, his love. He’s watching over you. And I know that the NYPD will continue to feel the faith, the vision of your great father through your great work.

Steven McDonald’s road on this Earth was not easy but he showed us what we needed to know. And now we have an obligation to tell his story over and over again here in this city and all across this nation especially at this time.

We need more healing. We need more love. We need more understanding, and who better to keep teaching us than Detective Steven McDonald. May he rest in peace and God bless you all.

[…]

Police Commissioner James O’Neill: Good morning, everyone. Cardinal Dolan, I just – before I start, I need to straighten one thing out. Monsignor O’Boyle, we don’t have accents.

[Laughter]

Thought I’d – figured I’d straighten that out.

You know, there’s an old saying in the Police Department that good cops don’t get cold, wet, or hungry. So, even today, Steven McDonald took care of us. Here it is the middle of January, and I know he had something to do with this. I know he had a conversation with God. It’s the middle of January, it’s about 55 degrees. It’s not raining. As far as the hungry part – the men and women of the NYPD are going to have to take care of themselves but thank you Steven, once again.

Your Eminence, Cardinal Dolan, members of the clergy, Mayor de Blasio, elected officials, Patti Ann, Conor, and to every family member – David, your dad; brothers, Thomas and Owen; Patricia, Maura, Dolores, Claire, Teresa. A big Irish family – go figure. I think I have one of those. And every friend of this incredible man gathered here this morning. On behalf of the men and women of the New York City, I extend my most profound condolences. The example Steven set for humanity – the ideals of perseverance, reconciliation, and purity of hope will long outlive him.

I first met Steven when I was the C-O of the Central Park Precinct in 1999. He came to the precinct to address roll call and he told rookies and veterans alike to always think about police officer safety and to always treat everyone they encountered with the same level of respect and kindness they’d afford their own closest friends. That’s what had such an impact on me.

Steven was saying that putting your life on the line for strangers is certainly not an easy vocation, but he knew the men and women of the NYPD could and do make a difference in people’s lives. In fact, Steven’s was a life that underscores why most people decide to become police officers. Cops want to make a difference. Cops want to do good. Cops want to lead lives of significance. And they do. And Steven did every single day of his life.

Steven was one of the most remarkable men I’ve ever met and one of the most fearless cops to ever don a uniform.

Steven continues to be an icon. He believed that tragedy that befell him was something that happened to him for a reason – to inspire him, to inspire others – so that he could become a messenger.

He often told people that the only thing that could be worse than being shot would have been to nurture revenge in his heart. Had he allowed that to happen, he said, his injury would have extended to his soul and further hurt those he loved. Always in control of his destiny, Steven chose to prevent that spiritual injury. Although he was able to breathe only with the help of a ventilator, Steven’s voice was always strong like his message – his message for improving relations between cops and community and his message of peace and forgiveness.

Arguably, his life was shaped as much by those three bullets by that 15-year-old boy as by three words he famously expressed afterwards, “I forgive him.”

Many of us might have given up after sustaining such a terrible injury. He was only 29 years old when he was shot, forever changing his life and the lives of Patti Ann and their unborn baby boy, Conor.

About seven months later, Conor was baptized in the chapel at Bellevue Hospital where Steven began his recovery. Now, Sergeant Conor McDonald, himself, is 29 years old. And Conor, I’m so proud of you. And every bit his father’s son, and every bit the New York Rangers fan.

I have Ranger cuff links on.

[Laughter]

I love you guys, but sometimes being a Rangers fan is not an easy job.

[Laughter]

Very high expectations this year.

Steven would be the first to tell you there are no fans like Rangers fans and there are certainly no cops like New York City cops.

To the McDonalds, being lifelong members of the Blueshirts faithful extends far beyond the ice at Madison Square Garden and is synonymous with being members of an amazing society of police officers, a bond that only those of us fortunate to serve New York City and its people can truly understand.

Conor is a fourth generation cop. His great grandfather was a dedicated detective once honored by Mayor La Guardia for foiling a Bronx robbery ring. And one time he was shot while breaking up another heist in 1936. Conor’s grandfather, David, became a cop in 1951 and took young Steven on rides in his patrol car. Not sure if you’re supposed to do that.

[Laughter]

David, we’ll let you slide on that one.

[Laughter]

David is here today, retired as a sergeant in 1976. And Steven’s younger brother, Thomas, is also here. He was an NYPD Emergency Service Unit cop up in Truck-2 and those men and women up there are near and dear to my heart.

The family’s history likely planted the seeds for Steven’s future and after serving four years as a medical corpsman in the Navy, he joined the NYPD in 1984. Times were very different back then. Although a bullet paralyzed Steven, it could never stop his commitment to serve others. Almost immediately, he embarked on a 30-year legacy of steadfast bravery inspired by his humanity, his compassion, and his ongoing devoted service to the NYPD and the people of this great city.

Steven kept a pace that would tire even the most able bodied, speaking several times a month at schools and police precincts and attending more promotion ceremonies and line-of-duty funerals than anyone else I know.

In the three decades following the shooting, Steven became an international ambassador for the NYPD and for his faith and a larger than life symbol of forgiveness. His global mission of goodwill and rebirth took him to the Middle East, Bosnia, and Northern Ireland where he promoted reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics. He spoke with President Reagan, met with Pope John Paul II, and Nelson Mandela. And in 2015, saw Pope Francis in Central Park.

He spoke and listened to countless police officers and helped this wounded city heal in the aftermath of 9/11. He helped redefine what a hero is in the NYPD and he did something good every day.

Steven McDonald was the strongest person I know and what we can learn from Steven’s life is this – the cycle of violence that plagues so many lives today can become overcome only by breaking down the walls that separate people. The best tools for doing this, Steven taught us, are love, respect, and forgiveness.

The shield Steven wore proudly on his chest symbolizes something sacred to every man and woman who has ever been a member of the New York City Police Department.

And every day that Steven was on this Earth, he embodied its rich tradition of courage and compassion. If nothing else, Steven wanted people to know that police officers take their job seriously because policing is a profession, it’s also a vocation.

And Steven wanted people to know that if duty calls for it, police officers will give you everything.

As we honor this great man today, let’s also ask that Steven’s fellow cops continue to be blessed and protected for they are the ones who will forever carry on his most important work.

Thank you very much.

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