Anniversary memorial for Charleston firefighters

A bell tolled at the end of a memorial for nine Charleston firefighters who died battling a blaze at a furniture store a year ago Wednesday, marking their final call to duty.

Each of the fallen firefighters received medals of valor from the International Association of Firefighters at the hour-long service at Gaillard Auditorium. A firefighter standing next to a large, framed portrait of each man accepted the award.

The memorial also included a 20-minute video tribute with personal photos of each of the firefighters.

The men died battling a blaze at the Sofa Super Store after a small trash fire grew into an inferno inside the store and warehouse. It was the largest loss of firefighters' lives since the 2001 terror attacks in New York.

The site of the fire is now an empty lot. The city bought the land, but hasn't decided what to do with it. A private memorial for families and colleagues of the fallen firefighters was planned around the same time the fire chief ordered everyone out of the building last June 18.

Wednesday's public ceremony opened with a prayer, then Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. read the names of the men who died, saying, “We will never forget.”

“One year ago tonight, they heard the bell. They responded,” Riley said. “These brave men rushed into a burning building and entered the pages of history.”