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Charleston 9 remembered with special ceremony 9 years after Sofa Super Store fire

Charleston 9 memorial - ninth anniversary (9).jpg

Saturday night was spent remembering another group of nine people who died in Charleston. It's the anniversary of the Sofa Super Store fire where firemen died in the line of duty.

The furniture store that once stood on Savannah Highway was a site of commerce and customer service. But on June 18, 2007, it became a scene of catastrophe.

Nine years later, nine victims were mourned and remembered in a tribute to their ultimate sacrifice.

An honor guard keeps a 24-hour watch over the sacred location. It's where flags fly and markers hold the names of the fallen.

A procession of men and women show unity on an anniversary of when nine public servants ended their duty and their lives.

"It's called the last call, and what we'll do is read the name of the fallen firefighter. And then we'll ring the last call, the bell for the last call," said Charleston Fire Chief Karen Brack. "It's a very simple, very toned down service. But it's also very touching because I think at the very basic level it just honors the memory of these men."

Charleston firefighters admit it's tough to keep in touch with all the victims' families.

"It's a memory that lives with you every day if you were here," said Battalion Chief Travis Holseberg. "You grow apart after a while. And you have to respect their privacy. So sometimes you just have to leave it at that. But I look forward to seeing them every year."

Richard Royal brings his young family to the memorial for firefighter Louis Mulkey.

"Louis was a friend of mine. I grew up with Louis. Louis and I spent years together," he said. "I'm just amazed at me knowing him."

Nine years after Mulkey's line of duty death, Royal still grieves.

"I was just amazed at me knowing him and everything he'd done just in the community with the kids and stuff at school," Royal said.

It's a time to remember with honor and dignity those brave nine: Captain Mike Benke, Captain William "Billy" Hutchinson, Captain Louis Mulkey, Bradford "Brad" Baity, Melvin Champaign, James "Earl" Drayton, Michael French, Mark Kelsey, and Brandon Thompson.

City officials confirm they have plans to do more with this site, but Fire Chief Brack didn't want to elaborate. For now, she wants to focus on the Charleston 9.

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