Thursday marked a somber day for Chicago firefighters. A year ago today, two of their own died fighting a blaze on the South Side.
Corey Ankum, 34, and Edward Stringer, 47, died Dec. 22, 2010, while searching for people inside a former dry cleaning business, at 1744 E. 75th St. They were inside the building when the roof collapsed.
Ankum had been on the force for nearly two years. Stringer was a 12-year veteran.
A year later, the building is gone but the memories remain. Friends and family began their tribute to Ankum and Stringer at 8 a.m. with the ringing of a memorial bell. The firefighters' names also will be added to the wall at the Stockyard memorial.
"I'm kinda replaying in my head being back here, we responded to the fire at the same time," said Firefighter Chris Parks, who worked with Ankum in Tower Ladder 34, "It's rough."
"He was a good man, a family man," said Michael Walker, Ankum's nephew. "He did what he needed to do. His family came first. He would be smiling right now."
The day of last year's fatal blaze marked the 100th anniversary of one of Chicago's most destructive fires which broke out at the Union Stockyards in 1910. Twenty-one firefighters died instantly in the tragic fire.
"Every day Edward willingly put his life in danger," Daley said at Stringer's funeral. "And the city of Chicago is lucky to have had him out there protecting us."
The building where the fatal fire started had been vacant for five years. It previously was cited for several code violations, including some that may have been directly related to the wall and roof collapsing, trapping both men.
On Wednesday, the Cook County State's Attorney filed a petition to hold the building's owner, Chuck Dai, in criminal contempt for failing to fix the faulty roof.
"He had a responsibility to continue to make all the improvements that he was ordered by the court to make, and so if the boards didn't work he needed to brick up that building," said State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. "But he didn't go there and he didn't do what he was supposed to do, and he totally disregarded the order."
Prosecutors said Dai signed a 2009 court order agreeing to fix the faulty roof by 2010. The fire occurred a month after the deadline.
The families of the firefighters in October filed wrongful death lawsuits against the owner.
"The purpose of this suit we're filing is also to bring the public's attention to the seriousness of the danger that every firefighter in Chicago faces," said Jennifer Stringer, the 23-year-old daughter of Edward Stringer.
On Thursday, Chicago's focus will be on the lives and memories of Ankum and Stringer.