"Many New Yorkers were surprised to learn Chief Downey was actually in the towers and not coordinating the rescue efforts from a secure location.
"To those who knew him best, this was no surprise. Truly great leaders display the same courage they ask of those they lead."
Downey's five children also will speak, sharing special memories of their courageous father. They are Joe, an FDNY captain; Chuck, an FDNY lieutenant; Kathy Ugalde and Ray Jr., both schoolteachers; and Marie Tortorici, a housewife.
And with their mother, Downey's widow Rosalie, they will offer a special prayer - a poem that was etched on a plaque sent to them by members of a Colorado fire department after the trade center collapse.
Called "The Broken Chain," the poem's author is unknown. It ends with "Our family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same; but as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again."
One of those unable to attend the service is Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, who befriended Downey in 1995 when the FDNY chief flew to Oklahoma City after the bombing of the Murrah federal building. Downey helped shore up the collapsed structure so rescue and recovery operations could get under way.
Keating, who is recovering from back surgery, sent a top aide, the Oklahoma City fire chief and a contingent of firefighters to the memorial to represent him.
The memorial service will begin at 11 a.m. at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church in Deer Park.