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Charleston plans simple, solemn memorial for firefighters

By Glenn Smith
The Post and Courier
CHARLESTON, S.C. ó The city is planning a solemn, but more muted, memorial this month to mark the two-year anniversary of the Sofa Super Store blaze that claimed the lives of nine Charleston firefighters.
The West Ashley site of the deadly blaze will be open for people to pay their respects on June 18. Firefighters and families of the fallen will go first, in a private session between 6 and 7 p.m. The public will then be allowed on the grounds between 7 and 10 p.m., said Mark Ruppel, the Fire Department’s public information officer.
No speeches or presentations are planned. Fire Chief Thomas Carr will simply read the names of the nine men and a fire bell will ring for each, Ruppel said. A quintet will play solemn selections during the event, he said.
The firefighters died battling a trash fire that raced inside the massive furniture outlet and exploded into a rolling inferno. The blaze was the nation’s deadliest firefighting tragedy since Sept. 11, 2001.
The planned memorial represents a departure from the elaborate services held last year on the tragedy’s first anniversary. Some 1,500 people, including Gov. Mark Sanford, attended a public memorial at the Gaillard Auditorium with speeches, a video montage and other honors. A few hundred mourners gathered later that same day for a private service at the fire site. That section of Savannah Highway, now named Charleston Nine Memorial Highway, was shut down for the event.
After speaking with firefighters and the families, fire officials decided on a more muted memorial that would allow people to offer remembrances in their own fashion, Ruppel said. The event will pay tribute to the sacrifice and also signify that the Fire Department is moving forward, he said.
Planners also felt it was important to include the public and recognize the community’s grief and support over the past two years, Ruppel said. The road will remain open during the event.
Reach Glenn Smith at 843-937-5556 or gsmith@postandcourier.com.

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