Wednesday, November 19th 2008, 3:03 AM
Thousands of cops, firefighters and loved ones stood in the biting cold Tuesday to mourn Jamel Sears for the man he was - and for all he might have been had the probationary firefighter lived to fulfill his dream.
His wife, Sherita, a city cop, didn't flinch as Sears' fellow probies carried his coffin into the Bethel Gospel Assembly in Harlem.
Their son, Mahlek, 11, swayed and grimaced when the bagpipes began playing.
His wide-eyed sister Jya, 7, wore her dad's blue FDNY cap atop her braids.
Sears, 33, is the first FDNY probie to die in training. He collapsed at the Fire Academy on Nov. 10 and died the next day. The cause of death hasn't been determined.
"I'm sure that for everyone here today ... it feels like the whole world is wrong," said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. "The young don't die, the strong don't fall and to part with Jamel when he was just at the beginning of a new life, so full of promise, seems too great a burden to bear."
RELATED: FDNY PROBIE, 33, DIES AFTER COLLAPSE
Mayor Bloomberg said Sears "was a man destined to serve others ... we'll never know what kind of career he would have had, but we will always know he was compassionate, dedicated, fearless."
The most poignant tribute was Mahlek's, in the funeral program: "... when I heard the news I was a little sad but now I have to take my responsibility and position as the man of the house and accept your death. I wish you good luck for your next life."
Sears and his wife were childhood sweethearts and life-long Bronx residents. The U.S. Navy man joined the FDNY in July.
Sears' academy class filled the balcony of the church; hundreds of men and a few women in the dress blues and white gloves they didn't expect to wear until graduation next month.
"You're starting out with knowledge most firefighters don't acquire until well into their careers, if ever - what it's like to bury a beloved fellow [FDNY] member," Scoppetta told them.
Soaring gospel music lightened the sorrow, as did talk of Sears not being much of a cook - a firehouse requirement.
A screen overhead flashed photos of Sears playing with his kids, cuddling with his wife and posing in his FDNY uniform.
Before the coffin was placed back on the fire rig, Sherita Sears was presented with her husband's fire helmet. Time froze while she stared at it, broke into tears and finally accepted it.