The soldier who perished while pulling people out of a roaring blaze was remembered Saturday as a man who lived as he died — a hero.
Dozens of mourners packed into Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Belmont to pay tribute to Pfc. Emmanuel Mensah.
The 28-year-old from Ghana was among the 13 victims of a fast-moving inferno that engulfed a five-story building Dec. 28.
The young soldier was home for the holidays when the blaze broke out on the first floor.
Rather than run and save himself, Mensah raced in and out of the burning building at least three times — carrying his neighbors to safety.
Mensah’s heroism cost him his life — he was found dead on the fourth floor, overcome by smoke as he tried to evacuate the building.
He’s credited with saving the lives of four people in what was the city’s deadliest fire in more than a quarter-century.
In his eulogy, Timothy Cardinal Dolan said that Mensah demonstrated the best in humanity by sacrificing his life for others, according to the New York Times.
“In the selfless valor, the instinctive willingness to sacrifice and give his all, Emmanuel Mensah was God with us, reminding us of the most noble calling of the human person, to give ourselves in sacrifice and love to others,” Dolan said, the Times reported.
Tears rolled down the faces of Mensah’s anguished relatives as soldiers carried his flag-draped coffin out of the church.
Several city firefighters — apparently moved by Mensah’s bravery — joined family and friends in honoring the fallen soldier.
The funeral came a day after Mensah’s relatives accepted two military awards in his honor.
His family said the New York State Medal of Valor and the Soldier’s Medal, which is the Army’s highest award for noncombat bravery, will be buried with him.