Charleston 9: Engineer Michael French
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Dianne French, the mother of Engineer Michael French, says she would give anything to hold her son one more time.
"When I found out when I was pregnant with him, for nine months I waited so anxiously to hold him in my arms," she says. "Now I feel like I'm back at that spot again except for this time I'm waiting 10 years to hold him."
For 10 years, she has held on only to memories and photographs of the son she called Mikey.
"He never wanted to be anything but a firefighter from the time he was 2 years old," she says.
She still has all of the Matchbox fire truck cars Mikey played with and collected as a little boy, a reminder to her of where his passion all started.
By age 14 Michael became a volunteer firefighter with the Moncks Corner Rural Fire Department. Diane would drive him to the station and to fires until he was old enough to drive himself.
"We would have a red light we would put on my car and it did not matter if it was one or two o'clock when he would knock on my car and we would take off," she said.
For Brandi Clark and Jean Dangerfield, Mikey was not only a little brother but also the peacemaker of the family.
"He was quiet he was the baby. I used to have to do things to get him upset everything would roll off his back."
Fifteen years ago, Ben Waring, who is now the fire chief of the Pine Ridge Fire Department was coming up through the ranks with Michael, who he called Frenchie. The two became fast friends serving first at Pine Ridge and then for the city.
"He was probably one of my closest friends before the tragedy we were always together going boating, hunting and fishing," Waring says.
Waring says Frenchie always talked about his wife and two children and about doing what he loved: fighting fires.
In honor of his dedication, the Pine Ridge Fire Department on Jedburg Road is now the Michael French Fire Station and Jedburg Road from I-26 all the way to Highway 176 is now the Michael French Memorial Highway.
Although the pain is still there, the French family is starting to gain some peace in the legacy Michael left behind.
"I know that he died doing what he loved so he would not want us to be upset because of how he died," his sister says.
"He got to fight fires which was his passion and he got to play like a little boy and that was to him the world," his mother says.
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