Community prepares for Charleston 9's 7th anniversary

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Wednesday marks seven years since nine Charleston city firemen lost their lives in what's been called one of the department's worst tragedies. On the eve of the anniversary, the community prepared to mark the passage of another year.

Julie Cole and her son David, will likely never forget June 18, 2007.

"It was a normal, sunny day," said Julie. "The kids were at a neighbor's house swimming in their pool."

David Cole was just nine years old.

"It was a couple of weeks after my birthday," said David as he reflected on the day. "It was maybe 6:30, 7 p.m. I remember kind of hearing like a pop or a bang or something. I kind of lifted my head out of the water."

That's when Julie Cole says her son rushed home to tell her what he heard.

"We just heard sirens, one after the other," said Julie Cole. "The street was filled with people and fire trucks and the smoke was just growing in intensity."

The Cole family lives behind the site of the Sofa Super Store on Savannah Highway. They were just yards from the inferno.

"At one point we started to load up the car because of the flames and everything was growing in intensity," Julie Cole said. "And we felt like we should start loading up the car and getting the kids out."

Julie Cole says the heat from the blaze felt like a massive bonfire.

Instead of leaving, Julie Cole says she stayed and did what she could to help the firefighters.

"They were coming over our fence and we were giving them water," she said. "We could see the somber look on their faces. And at the time, we didn't realize that there was loss of life."

Nine firefighters gave the ultimate sacrifice that day. Julie Cole says she will forever cherish their dedication to Charleston's community.

"We had total confidence in them. They protected us. They protected our homes and our street. I'm very sentimental about that. Gosh. Such a sacrifice they made for all of us," she said.

Even in his youth, David Cole says he is grateful for the Charleston 9 and all of the firefighters who worked to save his family's home.

"Thank you," said David. "I mean, this house wouldn't be here. This whole neighborhood could have been flattened."

A remembrance ceremony is planned for Wednesday, June 18 at the fire memorial site. Each firefighter's name will be called and a bell will ring in their honor.

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