Friday, June 22, 2007

Memorial Service For The Charleston 9

Charleston Fire Chief Rusty Thomas was interviewed by Brad Franco and he is talking about each man and who he was with the department. He told a lot about who they were as people. He was and is close with all of his men. He is normally such a great man with a ready smile. It broke my heart to see him sobbing as he tries to come to terms with the loss of life. He said, "Burying one would be to many, but we lost 9 brave men". He also said his son, who plays baseball at the Citadel broke him up by telling him that since 9 were taken, God must have needed a starting line up for is baseball team. He got a good group, that's for sure. Brad told a story about a man explaining to his little boy why so many brave firemen were taken at once, he told his son, "God needed 9 of the best firemen to be angels to help keep the devil's fires out of heaven." That is as good a reason as I can come up with.

The service at the coliseum is being attended by Rudolph Gulliani, John Edwards, Governor Mark Sanford, the weasley looking guy in charge of Homeland Security, Joe Biden, Lyndsey Graham, The Indianapolis Fire Department sent folks to sing the national anthem - Beautiful!,

FDNY came down on a long bus ride to be here, those bagpipes are so haunting and beautiful. Just hearing them is amazing.

There are Drumers from the Emerald Society FDNY. They led the families in, so many small children. So sad. As I watch this, my heart goes out to those families. Grief is such a difficult and personal thing. I can't imagine having to go through it so publicly. I guess it could be helpful, maybe. I know that I had trouble when my mom died dealing with people saying they were sorry. They don't know what else to say, but after a while, it makes your head want to explode. These families lost their loved ones in such a tragic, public way. My heart goes out to each and every one of them.

Chaplain Rob Dewey with the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy gave the invocation. He was so broken up on the night of the fire. This man is truly amazing in the work he does. He is always there when tragedy strikes.

Mayor Joe Riley is talking about what those men did during that fire. He also spoke about Chief Rusty. He says that these men followed him because of who he is and how he leads. He says that Chief Rusty showed leadership and grace under pressure during that fire. "They entered that building and walked into the pages of the history of this city. They gave us now and those who follow us and example of how to live our lives. We will never be the same."

Governor Mark Sanford is such a good speaker. He took the time to make it personal for each of those families. " Live lives that would glorify the life that they lived. They serve as an inspiration to each one of us as individuals. Will we live a life that inspires? Three thoughts..1. Walk out of this place committed to living. Life is fragile and precious and fleeting. We know that. But what happens between the dots? Tombstones have a starting date and finishing date....what happens in between. Favorite quote from Braveheart by William Wallace "Remember that every man must die, but not every man gets to live." Cover of Forbes Magazine when Malcolm Forbes died, " While alive he lived. " The Bible sayds, "Be hot, be cold, but don't be luke warm." These men were fully engaged in life. You don't make a living fighting fires living life at half speed. 2. Will we serve others? Ultimate meaning in this life are the things you can't see the things you can't touch. Things like love and courage, service and sacrifice. 3. Will we commit to acting on belief? Who you are depends on what you are willing to stand up for in life. Will we be willing to walk the walk in life? Semper fi. The Marine credo "Always being faithful." In battle that Marine will stand and deliver because it is a core value of what a man is about, he is always faithful to that man to his left and to his right. These firefighters were faced with that critical test. This critical test compelled them toward the flame or away from it, each one answered the call. They walked there walk into the company of angels right up to heavens gate." Governor Sanford did an excellent job. He speaks like he is having a conversation with you. Very moving.

There are firefighters here from all over the world. St. Louis, Indianapolis, New York, Massachusetts, Atlanta, North Carolina, Rhode Island and more.

"Angels Among Us" sung by NC Fire and Rescue. Awesome!

Michael Chertoff, the Secretary Of Homeland Security read his notes. I appreciate that he was here. The president sent a personal message to be read on his behalf. Mr. Chertoff, arguably, does a good job, but he is no public speaker!

Chief Rusty is about to speak, he is so broken up. Bless his heart. "All week long people have been asking me how ya doin? I said if I can get past the first of this speech I will be okay.
I am proud to be a 4th generation firefighter. There is not a tight knit community around like the citizens of Charleston. The outpouring has been awesome. The city of chas the neighborhood fire stations are the centerpiece of our city. People visit daily, kids, grandkids, family. The city of chas fd you don't just have a badge number, everybody knows everybody and I know everybody personally on a personal basis. Most of the faimilies I know, the other night Chief Mullen from the police department said is there anybody you don't know. No sir that is part of my job. each member I know personally. I hiree 6 of these 9. I promoted each of them to their rank.

Mondy we lost men who died doin what they loved best they represented over 130 yrs of service to the chas fd. Three had over 90 between the 3 of them. This is how Rusty Thomas will remember each one of them I will be okay.

mike benke he had family in the fd He served for 29 years, he retired and returned he loved his job so much.

billy hutchinson My daddy nicknamed him lightning. Nicknamed by dad, my dad said Lightning would have to strike to ge thim to move fast. He went to work all the time. he did something people don't dream aobut, he retired and returned. He said Chief are you sure you gonna hire me back? I need a job!

luis mulkey What a guy! Summerville, the town and community will lose a great great person he meant so much to the kids at summerville. Football to basketball and he was a substitute teacher. Monday I was talking with the Battalion Chief from his station. He always said his dept is the best, picks on everybody all the time. While I was talking to the Battalion Chif I heard Luis say somehting smart in the background, but didn't make out what he was saying. We finished our conversation then my phone rang right back. It said that the call was from the battalion chief, I answered Yea Chief? and it was Luis, he said,"I just wanted to hear you call me chief one time." and he hung up. That was Luis.

brad baity You could go to work 24 hour period and he wouldn't say 10 words and if he did you had to ask him to speak up did his job quiet guy always on the computer talking to people all over the world.

Mark kelsey You know that little pink energizer bunny? That was Kelsey round the station he didn't want to do to much sweeping and cleaning or checking his truck off. All he wanted to do was fight fire. He was a little banty rooster he was here, he was there. His part time job he worked at ashely river fire department, tell me this man didn't love fighting fires!

mike french he only been 2 years with me. He got everybody in the fd to talk for him to get a job. Everybody said why don't you hire mike? The way he finally got a job was my secretary said chief please give mike an interview, he comes here everyday! He would hunt me down all over town and say Chief you got any openings? Tell you about Mike we had to use a reserve truck the other day. My mechanic was showing Mike how to drive the reserve ladder truck. Mike said man Chief how old is this truck? I said it's a 1980. He said Chief this truck is older than me! He tried and tried he came to the office. He sat in front of me. He didn't wanna know about the pay or the insurance, the only thing he wanted to know was, when do he would get one of those badges. I told him he would have to get trained throught the recruitingclass. He was so excited, he went out the door. My secretary asked me is he gonna sign any papers, I told her, I don't think so, he's just going on! He wants a job!

melvin champaign His cousin called me,we went to school together. He said, "My cousin wants a job. He's kinda old but he wants a job." I said, "Tell him to come in he came to the office he had on a leather hat with a feather sticking out of it he wanted to know hey chief i just want to help people, that's all."

earl drayton oh my gosh, he been fd longer than me we came in together on cannon street together, i told you before i started if i got here i would be okay i love talkin about them we weren't married we would stay up til 2 or 3 in morning i was driving wer got a call 1977 housr fire st phillip & morris he's hoolerin rusty get this thing going thats my house! and it was Hot water heater on fire. retire and return he came to me and he had 30 years on the job. yeah I'll hire you back i, 56 years old . eraland billy and benke engine 16 and 19 2 truck 1 station earl wanted to chief on cell phone can i go next door with billy i sure would like to be onthe turck with him you sure he wants you yeah he does we;ll make a good team. change he shaking around while hes talking to you chief you gonna move me? I'm about to move the whole station , billy calls....earl says your moving me. the whole station you included

brandon thompson from summerville wanted a job with me came to me and I gave him a job. everytime he get a nose dribble he wanta go home sick he show up downstairs with his dad a cast on his right leg and a set of crutches, chief i was helping afriend of mine cut a tree and it fell on me iI will be out 3 months we got a problem yes sire chief we do he ain't got no money we aint' got a lot of one leg firement around here. I gave him ajob testing fire hydrants. his da dwould not leave until we found him and brought him out. His son helped bring brandon out and w elet that happen you know what chief if you wouldn'a done that to help him out I don;t know what he would have done with his life.

these are the memories and the relationship I have with these guys and everysingle one of those guys back there that belong to me. The city lost 9 great people. I am almost done. Many of us went to ny after 9/11 when i got hom if oudn the tshirt all gave some and some gave all. these guys gave it all every single day they came to work. they gave it all to our community every single day. they owould want us to carry on the tradition of the city of charleston fire dept alway sgo forward, keep moving evyeoner of us wil pledge and honro to do that for them

we had a breakfast at th egaillaird autitorium I gave them a challenge and it all starts iwth me. we will never forget each one of thsoe stations i want them to do something every single day we will never forget these nine great heros we will serve this community like no one else has ever served.

"How Great Thou Art" Seacoast Church Choir beautiful.

Monsinor John Roth spoke and prayed. The names of the fallen were read. The bell was rang for each of them. Then Taps was played. That song tears at my heart.

The bagpipes and drummers played Amazing Grace. So incredibley beautiful and sad.

The Reverend Jimmy Gallant III did the benediction. He said the benediction means it's all right with God. His son is a fireman. He spoke well.

Drummers and pipers played out the color guard, playing America The Beautiful.

1 comment:

joan said...

Good write up - thanks. I missed the whole ceremony at work.