Nation Shows Support for Toledo's Grief

Condolences poured in while signs and billboards grace the city.


Jan. 28--Condolences for the deaths of two Toledo firefighters poured in the day after they lost their lives fighting a North Toledo apartment fire.

Sympathy messages and supportive words were sent on social media sites from virtually across the country, and appeared on on area signs and billboards. Flags were lowered from nearby Maumee to faraway Maryland as a nation and a brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighters mourned for Toledo.

A Facebook page devoted to firefighters James Dickman, 31, and Stephen Machcinski, 42, notched more than 46,000 "likes" the day after the men were pulled from a burning building at 528 Magnolia St.

About two dozen digital billboards around the area flashed the men's names and the message "Gone but never forgotten."

From roadside signs to social media memorials, the men were remembered and the sadness felt.

A firefighting academy in Concord, N.C., keeps a tally of the number of firefighters lost in the line of duty. That number on a faraway classroom's memorial wall will now reflect the local loss.

"You never leave a brother alone," said David Barlow, chief of the Concord High School Fire Academy. "We take care of our own. We look out for our own."

Many now count Toledo as their own.

Like many Facebook users, the academy updated its online page to feature photographs of the fallen firefighters.

A Web camera trained on the National Fallen Firefighters' Memorial in Emmitsburg, Md., showed flags whipping at half-staff Monday. They will remain lowered for three days. That's for Toledo, too.

Area billboards operated by Lamar Advertising paid tribute to the firefighters. Joe Reams, an operations assistant in the Toledo office, said the company created the message and had it running Monday.

As a volunteer firefighter in Washington Township, Mr. Reams said the sign of support was particularly meaningful. He noted a previous surge of well-wishes came after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"Even if they are not firefighters, we've grown to be more close to each other and support each other whenever a tragedy like this happens," Mr. Reams said. "It brings the whole community together."

Mr. Reams said some of his fellow Washington Township firefighters headed to their own station Sunday to try to gather information about the deadly fire.

"I think it's really great to show that a lot of people do care, and people do come together in a tragedy like this," Mr. Reams said.

People are coming together in other ways too.

An effort to cook meals for all of Toledo's firefighters is under way on Facebook, called Feed Our Toledo Firefighters. Jamie Armstrong of Holland is organizing the meal deliveries to firehouses.

"It's one less thing they have to worry about, cooking," Ms. Armstrong said. "It's the community taking care of them since they're always taking care of us."

During a news conference Monday, Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago acknowledged people may want to give money, but warned potential donors to be careful to avoid scams. He suggested donations to the Toledo Fire and Rescue Foundation.

Others, seeking solace in prayer, may attend Masses in celebration of the two firefighters' lives at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Sunday in the Historic Church of St. Patrick.

The 130 Avondale Ave. church is a fitting location for such a service: St. Patrick's credits the Toledo Fire Department for saving its sanctuary from a 1980 fire, and an altar shrine is dedicated to St. Florian, patron saint of firefighters.

Staff Writer Taylor Dungjen contributed to this report.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com, or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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