Firefighter Killed on 9/11

Honored Four Years Later

NEW YORK -- Just days short of the fourth anniversary of his death, a firefighter lost in the World Trade Center was hailed at his funeral for his passion for service.

Gerard Baptiste's remains were not identified until earlier this year. With the echo of bagpipes and the firefighters in dress uniform, the services for him at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral were eerily reminiscent of countless others in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Baptiste was one of three firefighters from Ladder 9 in the East Village to die at ground zero.

Fire officials held a memorial service for Baptiste on Nov. 16, 2001. After the remains were identified, relatives had sought to bury Baptiste, a lieutenant in the 69th Infantry of the National Guard, in Arlington National Cemetery.

When their request was denied, they opted for a line-of-duty funeral.

* JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -- Brisk wind and forceful rain moved through this beachside community awaiting Tropical Storm Ophelia, sending tourists scurrying inland and driving surfers out of the churning Atlantic. The tropical depression off the coast strengthened into a tropical storm early Wednesday and could bring high winds and heavy rain to central and northern Florida over the next few days.

* BOSTON -- A proposed ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage passed a key hurdle when the state attorney general ruled that it would be permitted under a section of the state constitution allowing voters to overturn court decisions. The action by state Attorney General Tom Reilly, a Democrat who is expected to run for governor in 2006, clears the way for conservative groups to begin the long process of gathering signatures and lobbying lawmakers in hopes of putting the issue before voters in 2008.

* SAN DIEGO -- Steep terrain challenged firefighters struggling to contain a 600-acre blaze near the picturesque Gold Rush town of Julian, which has survived three major blazes since 2002. The fire, which was about 30 percent contained, destroyed four hunting cabins. Julian is 60 miles northeast of San Diego.

* CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians may revere Abraham Lincoln as the father of their state, but they would cease honoring his birthday as an official holiday under legislation proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin III. Manchin, a Democrat, wants instead to combine that February holiday with Washington's Birthday later that month and rename the result Presidents' Day. The federal government made the same move in 1971, and most states have done likewise.

* BOSTON -- A British passenger who allegedly threatened to kill everyone aboard a transatlantic flight pleaded guilty Wednesday under an agreement with prosecutors that will spare him further jail time. Sean Simon John Joyce, 38, allegedly became belligerent after taking a sleeping pill and drinking wine on a US Airways flight from Charlotte to London on July 11.

-- From News Services