Charleston Mourns, Firefighters Wonder Why

Makeshift memorials are everywhere. Flags fly at half mast. Signs in front of businesses ask for prayers. This historic southern city is in mourning.CHARLESTON -- Makeshift memorials are everywhere. Flags fly at half mast. Signs in front of businesses...


Michael "Frenchie" French was remembered for following his dream to become a fireman. He was a go-getter, eager. While other relatives followed their paths to wear police badges, he chose boots and a helmet.

"Brandon (Thompson) was my fireman," Johnson said. "He was big. He could knock down any door that's for sure. He'd do anything for you."

When Brandon's body was recovered, his two firrefighter brothers carried him to the waiting ambulance. "We try to make things work for families. That's what they wanted," said Assistant Chief Ronnie Classen.

Thompson and French also were volunteers at Pine Ridge Fire Department.

The phone calls haven't stopped since Monday night. "One guy was crying and crying. He couldn't talk. I told him, I'm OK," Green recalled.

Wives of firefighters have volunteered to answer the phones, and help with the onslaught of visitors to headquarters.

Tones interrupted the conversation at Engine 6. Dispatch was sending the initial companies to the sofa factory to check for a kitchen fire in a house. "I think that's their first or second since the other night," Johnson said.

Brown was leaving the gym Monday when he saw the smoke. "I headed right over."

In the midst of the discussion, a group of teenagers and their leader from the local YMCA stopped by. They crowded into the fire station office, and unfurled a banner that read: Cannon St. YMCA We Love You Cannon St. Firefighters."

Crying, Myra Chamble remembered the fallen firefighters who visited the children at the local center. "They would often stop by and play. It means so much. We all look forward to them coming."

The youths fought tears as they held their banner that's now on display under the office window.

Citizens and business owners have been stopping at the fire stations with food, including homemade cookies and brownies. Some have cards or notes attached.

The firefighters say they know they have tough times ahead, but they have plenty of shoulders to lean on.

The marquee outside one of the downtown historic theaters reads: "Our thoughts and prayers are with CFD."