NYPD Sgt. Conor McDonald rose to hug his mom, kissed his father Steven’s casket, and delivered an emotional eulogy that touched every heart inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“Thank you so much for showing tribute to my beautiful, amazing father,” McDonald told a crowd filled with their NYPD brethren, all gathered 50 blocks south of the spot where his dad was shot and paralyzed in July 1986.
“I never thought this day would come,” continued the fourth-generation cop. “My father was the real Superman ... He was the greatest man I could have asked for to be my father.”
The sad and funny memories flowed Friday at a Manhattan funeral attended by some 12,000 officers, many lining Fifth Ave. for blocks in an emotional send-off to the quadriplegic cop whose message of love circled the world.
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Conor thanked his mom Patti Ann, who wiped tears from her eyes as she received a standing ovation, and gave a shout out to mourner David Letterman. He led the church in the Prayer of St. Francis.
And he gave one last rousing farewell to his father — fan of the New York Rangers, The Who and the NYPD.
“God bless America, our city of New York and our saint, my dad, the legendary Detective Steven McDonald!” said the 29-year-old Conor — now the same age as his father on the day of the shooting.
McDonald, 59, died this past Tuesday after suffering a heart attack in his Malverne, L.I., home four days earlier.
Steven McDonald, NYPD cop paralyzed 30 years ago, dead at 59
The sound of a lone bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace” echoed along Fifth Ave. as McDonald’s casket, draped in an NYPD flag, entered the somber cathedral behind Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
A police honor guard served as pallbearers, and McDonald’s wife and son followed arm in arm. Conor wore his dress blues, and the two sat side by side in the first pew.
Among those up front for the service were Mayor de Blasio and former Mayor David Dinkins, along with NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and his predecessor William Bratton.
“Steven was one of the most remarkable men I have ever met,” said O’Neill. “He believed the tragedy that befell him was something that happened to him for a reason: To inspire him to inspire others.”
Det. Steven McDonald was a role model for forgiveness
The NYPD detective improbably survived for 30 years after a 15-year-old gunman shot him three times as he patrolled Central Park.
32 photos view gallery Thousands mourn NYPD hero Steven McDonald at funeral
The second-year cop, a newlywed with a pregnant wife, was left paralyzed from the neck down. But the indefatigable McDonald reinvented himself as a prophet of peace and forgiveness, traveling the world to deliver a message that appeared at odds with the violence that left him in a wheelchair.
Among the stops were trips to Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Bosnia. He met with Presidents and Popes in his new role as an acolyte of absolution.
With McDonald’s death, said de Blasio, it was up to those left behind to spread his personal gospel.
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“Steven McDonald’s road on this Earth was not easy but he showed us what we need to know,” said de Blasio. “Now we have an obligation to tell his story across this city and all across his nation, especially at this time.”
The 138-year-old cathedral, as noted by de Blasio, was the perfect choice for the funeral. McDonald, a devout Roman Catholic who came to St. Patrick’s for Midnight Mass at Christmas, befriended all three of New York’s cardinals since his shooting.
Msgr. Seamus O’Boyle, one of Patti Ann’s cousins and the priest who married the couple, recalled how Steven never slowed down despite his health and the passage of time.
On the night before his Jan. 6 heart attack, McDonald was still out spreading his message.
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“From the confines of a wheelchair, accompanied by that staccato cadence of his ventilator, Steven spoke,” said O’Boyle in his eulogy.
“It was never about him. It was never ‘poor me.’ It was about the treasure he held in that fragile and wounded vessel of his human body.”
O’Boyle recalled hearing McDonald’s voice in other venues: Shouting at “knucklehead” referees or singing along with his favorite band, The Who.
No one mentioned the name of Shavod (Buddha) Jones, the youth who shot McDonald. He served nine years in jail and then died in a freak motorcycle accident after three days of freedom.
But O’Boyle explained how the shooting and its aftermath changed McDonald’s view of the world.
“Steven was a man on a mission,” said O’Boyle. “Steven wholeheartedly believed there’s no point in feeling hate in your heart. It is a destructive and wasting disease.”
Former New York Rangers star Adam Graves, the son of a Toronto cop, delivered a message on behalf of the team to one of its biggest fans.
“He touched all of us, he changed all of us,” said Graves, who played on the Blueshirts’ 1994 Stanley Cup team. “We will always be in awe of you, Detective McDonald.”
The two-hour service ended with the mourners singing “God Bless America” before McDonald’s casket was brought out of the church.
Nine NYPD choppers flew overhead, along with a flock of birds.
Tucked among the high-profile mourners was retired NYPD Officer Wayne Brooks, who was working in the 19th Precinct when McDonald was shot.
“He was an inspiration,” said Brooks. “He was a messenger of forgiveness.”
Brooks recalled how he excused the attacker who brutally kicked him in the head during a 1999 arrest, forcing his early retirement.
“I’ve forgiven him,” he said. “I don’t hold a grudge against him.”Send a Letter to the Editor