Statesboro Firefighters Among Thousands to Mourn in Charleston

The flag flies at half staff at the Statesboro fire station.
The flag flies at half staff at the Statesboro fire station.

Mourners from Charleston and from around the country will gather Friday to remember nine firefighters killed this week. Many will go there from fire departments near and far to pay their respects. In Statesboro, eight firefighters got ready Thursday to make the trip.

Statesboro's fire trucks got more than their normal wash and wax. Jason Barrs and the rest of the honor guard weren't sure yet what they would drive to Charleston. The deaths of nine firefighters there has many troubled here.

"The trip over and the memorial itself will hit pretty hard, I guarantee," Barrs predicted.

Friday's service could bring as many as 30,000 to pay their respects, many of them firefighters from across the nation who feel a common bond.

"A lot of people refer to it as a family. Some people call it a brotherhood," Barrs added.

With just eight firefighters attending the memorial, Statesboro may have one of the smallest contingents there. But when you realize the department has only 32 personnel total, that's a big percentage to send to show how much they care.

Emerson Melton has served here 29 years.

"We've never had an in-the-line-of-duty death here and I hope we never do. That's a tough thing to get over," Melton stated.

Monday's tragedy reminds them of what they try to forget.

"It's easy now to look at what happened there and realize how many times we've been in similar situations," admitted Melton's coworker of 27 years and brother, Darrel. "We were just fortunate."

When their crew rolled out Thursday night toward Charleston, they hope their numbers help show that their nine comrades won't be forgotten.

The memorial service will be held in the North Charleston Coliseum.

Reported by: Dal Cannady,