Ceremony to honor ‘Charleston 9′ 16 years later
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Community members in Charleston are set to gather this weekend to remember nine city firefighters who died during a large fire at a furniture store in West Ashley in 2007.
The remembrance ceremony starts at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Charleston 9 Memorial Park, the site of the Sofa Super Store fire where the nine fire fighters were killed.
The fallen have come to be known as the Charleston 9:
- Firefighter Brandon Thompson - Ladder 5
- Engineer Brad Baity - Engine 19
- Capt. Louis Mulkey - Engine 15
- Engineer Mark Kelsey - Ladder 5
- Capt. Mike Benke - Engine 16
- Capt. William Hutchinson - Engine 19
- Firefighter Melvin Champaign - Engine 16
- Asst. Engineer Michael French - Ladder 5
- Firefighter James “Earl” Drayton - Engine 19
The family of the fallen and the Charleston Fire Department will be in attendance. The community is welcomed to attend to pay their respects 16 years after one of the biggest tragedies in American History.
At the time this was the highest firefighter fatality in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks.
Though the loss of the Charleston 9 is tragic, Assistant Chief of Administration David Griffin says their impact is felt not only in the Charleston Fire Department but nationally.
“We just hired 42 new firefighters. And on Tuesday, we explained to them that this is a part of their history and lineage. Now they come into a department that is very historic, but they also have a historic line of duty death that they have to understand. And that they have to be able to explain when people come to fire houses and they ask about the Charleston 9, they want to know what happen and what we’ve done to approve upon that, so the national fire department has learned from that as well,” Griffin said.
Recent renovations have been underway to the memorial located at the site of the incident; however, the memorial will still be under construction during Sunday’s ceremony.
Officials with the Charleston Fire Department hope the renovations will be done soon, but more importantly done right to honor the Charleston 9 and other fallen firefighters in the city.
“Hearing the stories from the families hearing the stories from the fellow firefighters who are still here those who retired and have come back to celebrated with us just taking that moment to remember them and pay homage to them because of the sacrifice they made,” Department Chief of Operations Forrest Cockcroft said.
For more information on the ceremony, click here.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.