Charleston 9 remembered in West Ashley ceremony

Updated: Jun. 19, 2015 at 12:28 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - As the Charleston church community mourned the deaths of nine people gunned down during a bible study, a ceremony in West Ashley solemnly marked the eighth anniversary of the fire that claimed nine city firefighters.

The remembrance ceremony for the Charleston 9 took place at the site of the former Sofa Super Store on Savannah Highway at 7 p.m. Thursday. The annual ceremony features the reading of the names of the nine City of Charleston firefighters who died battling the fire, following by the ringing of a fire bell and bagpipes.

The Charleston 9, as the victims came to be known, died at the scene of the fire on the evening of June 18, 2007. At the memorial service for the men held four days later, an estimated 30,000 people attended, including firefighters from agencies across North America.

The victims were Engineer Bradford "Brad" Baity, of Engine 19; Capt. Mike Benke of Engine 16; Firefighter Melvin Champaign, of Engine 16; Firefighter James "Earl" Drayton, of Engine 19; Asst. Engineer Michael French, of Ladder 5; Capt. William Hutchinson, of Engine 19; Engineer Mark Kelsey, of Ladder 5; Capt. Louis Mulkey, of Engine 15; and Firefighter Brandon Thompson, of Ladder 5.

The site of the former furniture store was turned into a memorial park that opened two years after the tragedy.

The fire caused the greatest single loss of firefighters since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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