A year after a roof collapse that killed two Chicago firefighters, more than 100 of their brethren gathered at the fire scene--now a vacant lot--to memorialize them and every other Chicago firefighter who died on this date.
Firefighters Corey Ankum, 34, of Tower Ladder 34, and Edward Stringer, 47, of Engine Company 63, were killed on Dec. 22, 2010 while battling a blaze at an abandoned laundry at 1744 E. 75th St. in the South Shore neighborhood.
"This is sacred ground we are standing on today," said Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff. "It always will be.
"I want to thank everyone who was at the fire, every firefighter, paramedic that worked so hard to save firefighters' lives. I can truly say we did the best we could," he said.
Before Hoff spoke, a fire bell was rung once for each of the 26 firefighters killed on this date over the years, beginning with the 21 who died 101 years ago at the Chicago Stockyards fire.
The bell for Corey Ankum was rung by his mother, Marie.
The ceremony began with the hanging of an American flag on the raised ladder of a fire truck. It ended with the ringing of the fire bell in a pattern of 3-3-5, the old telegraph code signifying return to quarters.
The memorial was held a day after Cook County prosecutors filed a petition in Criminal Court to hold the building's owner, Chuck Dai, in criminal contempt, a charge that could lead to prison on conviction.
Prosecutors asserted Dai had violated a court order to repair and make the abandoned building safe.
Records show the city had cited Dai for 14 separate code violations before the fire, but the building was never repaired or torn down. Relatives of Ankum and Stringer have filed wrongful-death lawsuits against Dai.
As those charges were announced, colleagues and loved ones of the killed firefighters said they have struggled to make sense of the tragedy that also injured numerous firefighters when the truss roof collapsed that cold December day.
"We're over the shock of it," Stringer's brother, Michael Torres, 45, told the Tribune this week. "But the pain … I don't know if that will ever go away."
"It's always in the back of your mind," said Don Rose, a firefighter who worked with Ankum, as he sat at a table with other firefighters at their firehouse Sunday night. "Always."