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Locals turn out to support fallen firefighters in Chicago

When two Chicago firefighters died after a wall collapsed on them Dec. 22, waves of sadness spread to their fellow firefighters.

Firefighter Edward Stringer’s wake was on Monday night and he was buried Tuesday morning. Visitation for his colleague Corey Ankum is scheduled today; his burial will be on Thursday.

Some of the hundreds of firefighters who came to one funeral and will go to another are from the Fox Valley. Local officials say they came to respect those who died in the line of duty.

Among them was St. Charles Fire Capt. Nick McManus, who went to Stinger’s funeral on his day off.

“I went to honor a fellow firefighter fallen in the line of duty, to show my respects,” McManus said. “It’s just the right thing to do. It just comes with the territory of being a firefighter.”

McManus said he stood outside in the cold to salute and follow fire service funeral tradition and ceremony of saluting until the casket is brought into the chapel.

“When I saluted, I tried to make sure my arm was not shaking,” McManus said. “It was the wind.”

He said firefighters attended not only from the suburbs, but from Canada, Houston and Dallas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana and New York City.

“I felt sadness and a great sense of pride,” McManus said.

Geneva Deputy Chief Scott Spencer said paying respects at a funeral is part of the fellowship of firefighting.

“If a firefighter is killed in the line of duty in Chicago, or Pittsburgh or New York – it doesn’t matter. It hits everybody the same,” Spencer said. “It’s a horrible loss.”

Eight firefighters from Geneva went to Stringer’s wake and funeral, he said.

Fire officials in Sugar Grove could not confirm anyone went to Chicago, but a few from Elburn went.

“It’s important to honor your fallen brothers and their families,” Elburn Fire Chief Kelly Callaghan said.

But sometimes a staffing problem prevents them from attending, as it did in Batavia, explained Batavia Fire Lt. Tim Lyons.

“We are too tight on manning,” Lyons said. “Myself and another guy were going to go [Tuesday] but because of people being out sick, we were at a bare minimum. It broke my heart not to send somebody.”

Still, Lyons said he is off on Wednesday and plans to attend services for Ankum.

“The department has always been very good about covering my time so I can go. I’m there representing them, not just myself,” Lyons said. “I look at it as a blessing to have the support of the fire department to allow me to go.”

Lyons said he went to New York after Sept. 11, 2001, and went to 10 funeral services a day for five days.

Lyons said it meant a lot to the departments and their families to have that support.

“We said we are from just outside Chicago and they were blown away, got something in their eye,” Lyons said. “I get things in my eyes once in a while. It just means so much.”

He said it is not unusual for so many firefighters to turn out and support a fallen brother.

When six firefighters died in a fire when a warehouse collapsed on them in Worcester, Mass., in 1999, Lyons said, he was among those who came to help dig them out. It took eight days to recover their remains.

“They had guys there from Ireland, from England,” Lyons said. “There were 30,000 firemen there.”

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