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Jon Stewart fights back tears remembering late firefighter

Associated Press logo Associated Press 6/2/2017
FILE- In this Jan. 9, 2016 file photo, comedian Jon Stewart, right, pats the shoulders of retired FDNY firefighter and Sept. 11 first responder Ray Pfeifer after Pfeifer was given the key to the city at New York's City Hall. Stewart fought back tears Friday, June 2, 2017, during Pfeifer's funeral, as he described his friendship with the retired New York City firefighter who worked in the rescue effort following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File) © The Associated Press FILE- In this Jan. 9, 2016 file photo, comedian Jon Stewart, right, pats the shoulders of retired FDNY firefighter and Sept. 11 first responder Ray Pfeifer after Pfeifer was given the key to the city at New York's City Hall. Stewart fought back tears Friday, June 2, 2017, during Pfeifer's funeral, as he described his friendship with the retired New York City firefighter who worked in the rescue effort following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Jon Stewart fought back tears Friday as he described his friendship with a retired New York City firefighter who worked in the rescue effort following the Sept. 11 terror attacks and died after an eight-year battle with cancer.

Firefighters stand at attention as the firetruck carrying the coffin of retired New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer passes them after his funeral service at the Holy Family Church, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) © The Associated Press Firefighters stand at attention as the firetruck carrying the coffin of retired New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer passes them after his funeral service at the Holy Family Church, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The comedian spoke at the funeral Mass in Hicksville for Raymond Pfeifer, who died Sunday on Long Island at age 59.

A firefighter present the helmut of retired New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer to his family after his funeral service at Holy Family Church, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) © The Associated Press A firefighter present the helmut of retired New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer to his family after his funeral service at Holy Family Church, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Pfeifer was among those who lobbied fiercely for the renewal of the Zadroga Act, which provides health benefits to first responders who fell ill after the attacks in 2001. He and others, including Stewart, went to Congress in 2015 to challenge lawmakers to extend health monitoring and treatment for Sept. 11 first responders. Congress ultimately did reauthorize the program.

Firefighters and salute as the casket carrying retired New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer is carried from the Holy Family Church after his funeral service, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) © The Associated Press Firefighters and salute as the casket carrying retired New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer is carried from the Holy Family Church after his funeral service, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Pfeifer served over 27 years in the fire department before retiring in 2014.

Hyannis, Mass., Fire Dept. Capt. Thomas Kenney watches as a fire truck pass during the funeral service for New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) © The Associated Press Hyannis, Mass., Fire Dept. Capt. Thomas Kenney watches as a fire truck pass during the funeral service for New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

"Make no mistake, Ray Pfeifer died in the line of duty, because of illness in the terrible terrorist attacks of 9/11," Stewart told mourners.

The jacket and helmet of retired New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer are hung from the side of a fire truck during his funeral service, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) © The Associated Press The jacket and helmet of retired New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer are hung from the side of a fire truck during his funeral service, Friday, June 2, 2017 in Hicksville, N.Y. Pfeifer died Sunday, May, 28, after an eight-year fight with cancer. He had spent months digging through debris after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He became a key voice in fighting for health care for first responders. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

"But more importantly Ray Pfeifer lived in the line of duty. Now and forever. That's what I remember most about him."

In this June 17, 2016 photo, Raymond Pfeifer talks to reporters in St. James, N.Y. The retired New York City firefighter, who spent months at the World Trade Center site digging through debris after the 9/11 attacks and then fought for health care for first responders even when wracked with late-stage cancer, died Sunday, May 28, 2017, after an eight-year fight with the disease. Pfeifer's funeral is Friday, June 2. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman) © The Associated Press In this June 17, 2016 photo, Raymond Pfeifer talks to reporters in St. James, N.Y. The retired New York City firefighter, who spent months at the World Trade Center site digging through debris after the 9/11 attacks and then fought for health care for first responders even when wracked with late-stage cancer, died Sunday, May 28, 2017, after an eight-year fight with the disease. Pfeifer's funeral is Friday, June 2. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)

The former host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" recalled becoming exasperated when it appeared lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., were not succeeding. The comedian said he grew weary of being handed business cards by politicians. Pfeifer remained calm, Stewart said.

"He patted his chest and he reached in and he pulled out prayer cards. Hundreds," Stewart said in a reference to the 343 firefighters killed on 9/11.

"He said, 'I got all the cards I need.'"

Stewart, fighting back tears, concluded:

"And now Raymond, I got one," pulling out a prayer card for Pfeifer. "And it's going to teach me how to do right. Thank you."

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