Memorial celebrates life of Lt. Joyce Craig

Lt. Joyce Craig, the first female Philadelphia firefighter to die in the line of duty was honored at a City Hall memorial service Monday. Craig died while battling a house fire in West Oak Lane last month.

“Our family was far from the only one who suffered a lost here,” said Lt. Craig’s brother, Michael Craig.

Craig, 33, said that since the Dec. 9 fire that claimed his sister’s life, he has heard countless stories about her heroism and how much she meant to the community.

“I would never have thought that I would get to know my sister even more after she was gone,” he said.

Mayor Michael Nutter and Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Commissioner Jesse Wilson officially presented the city flag to Mekhi Green, 16, Craig’s son, during the ceremony.

Craig’s infant daughter Laylani Lewis was also present at the ceremony,

“She wanted to be the best at what she did. She didn’t shy away from anything that was asked of her. Joyce loved her job,” said Fire Department Lt. Diane Mercer during the service.

Mercer was one of the first three women to join the Philadelphia Fire Department in 1985.

“If you picked something that wasn’t girly, you got discouraged,” Mercer said of the era. “If Joyce was discouraged, she didn’t let it stop her.”

Joe Schulle, president of IAFF Local 22, the firefighters’ union, said Craig faced an “extra level of skepticism” proving herself in the “male-dominated profession” of firefighting. Less than five percent of the Philadelphia Fire Department’s firefighters are women, he said.

“As one of the small group of female firefighters, she helped show us all that women are capable of doing this job every bit as well as a man,” Schulle said. “She did it with hard work and without any accommodations.”

Mayor Michael Nutter recalled the story that Craig wanted to become a firefighter after seeing one when she was a little girl.

“Joyce may have seen one of you many many years ago, and said, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Nutter told the room full of firefighters. “You do not know that you may be inspiring the next Joyce Craig.”

Craig was a firefighter for 11 years. She served with Engine 9, Engine 45, Ladder 21 and was assigned to Engine 64 at the time of her death.

The Fire Marshal’s investigation into the cause of the fire that killed Lt. Craig is ongoing, said Executive Fire Chief Clifford Gilliam.

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