After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Paul J. Sciullo II considered quitting his job as a computer programmer to join the military to defend his country.
But he wasn't willing to leave behind his family, friends and Bloomfield, the neighborhood where he had spent his whole life. So he became a Pittsburgh police officer.
"You couldn't take him out of Bloomfield," said Rick Regalla, 37, a Latrobe native who has been friends with Officer Sciullo since they were both students at Duquesne University. "I always called him the unofficial mayor of Bloomfield."
Yesterday, the community and the city honored its fallen son, with hundreds of people packing St. Joseph Church on Liberty Avenue and many more lining the street outside.
Officer Sciullo and colleagues Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric Kelly were killed responding to a domestic dispute in Stanton Heights Saturday morning.
"Paul loved this neighborhood. It was his life," said the Rev. John Dinello, pastor of the Immaculate Conception/St. Joseph Parish. "Look around you. Love is alive inside this church, in this community."
Before the Mass began, police filled Liberty Avenue, joined by a contingent of Patriot Guard Riders, who usually show up with American flags at the funerals of soldiers killed in combat.
"It's my way of saying thank you," said retired nurse Pat Gross, 73, of Youngwood, as she clutched a flag in front of the church. "It's out of respect for police officers everywhere. I really don't think we say thank you enough."
A lone bagpiper played as police carried the flag-draped coffin up the steps to the church, where the flag was replaced by the traditional Catholic white burial cloth. Officer Sciullo's parents led the way down the aisle, followed by other family members, police officials including Chief Nate Harper, and a contingent of officers from Toronto, Canada.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and City Council members also were in attendance.
But the theme kept returning to Bloomfield.
Father Dinello said he first met Officer Sciullo when he responded to a call at the church. He said he was always a presence in the neighborhood, on and off duty, and that he brought a calm and a peace to the neighborhood.
Later in the Mass, three of the officer's nephews and a niece spoke. Anna Zahren said her uncle always called her "little princess" and remembered that "his hug could warm up a frozen Popsicle."
A family member also read a thank you note to the city for all its support.
After a public memorial service today at 1 p.m. on the University of Pittsburgh campus, Officer Sciullo will be buried in St. Mary Cemetery.
Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1183. First Published April 9, 2009 4:00 AM