Updated: 12/22/10 10:01 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Two firefighters doing what they loved to do most died today. Their names: Corey Ankum and Edward Stringer.
As CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports, at the firehouse where Ankum, 34, worked in the Grand Crossing neighborhood, flags fly at half staff.
There’s a steady flow of well-wishers, from fellow firefighters stopping by Engine 72 to pay their respects, to police officers and those who live and work in the area. They are all mourning the death of firefighter Corey Ankum.
In a solemn moment of unity, firefighters stand side by side as they salute one of their own: Chicago firefighter Corey Ankum.
As hugs are shared and tears are shed, they mourn two of their fallen brothers.
Ankum and fellow firefighter Edward Stringer, 47, died Wednesday morning in the line of duty.
Both firefighters were in the building searching for anyone who may have been trapped inside.
“Older people on his block, he helped out, watching out for their houses while they go to work,” said Gerald Glover, Ankum’s half-brother. “All kind of stuff. There was nothing you could ask for him to do that he wouldn’t do.”
Purple and black bunting now hangs in front of Engine 72 and Engine 63 headquarters.
Glover says he and Ankum worked together here, on different shifts. He says Ankum was a Chicago police officer for three years, before coming to work at Engine 72 for about a year.
“He wanted to be a fireman more than he wanted to be a cop,” said Glover. “He liked helping people. Great guy, excellent. You couldn’t ask for nothing better.”
Glover says his fellow firefighters feel his pain.
“These are all my brothers and sisters, and when I hurt, they hurt,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of firemen pass away. But I never thought that I’d see my brother pass.”
Maurice Matthews says his brother, Firefighter Steven Ellerson, tried to save Ankum, along with the rest of his firefighting brothers, but Ankum was trapped under debris.
“He couldn’t get him out,” said Matthews. “So they had to make my brother come out. He didn’t want to leave him, but I understand the captain made him come out, so they drug him out.”
Matthews said his brother is struggling with what happened.
“To be there, knowing that you can’t help your comrade and you had to leave him, is what he’s taking pretty hard now, because he was the last guy with him,” Matthews said.
Survivor Ellerson’s wife, Monica, says, “We were concerned and we were all worried. The roof caved in and he kind of slid down.”
Ellerson was injured but survived.
“The whole family is very prayerful and we’re very thankful,” Monica said.
Edward Stringer, a 12-year-veteran, was a member of Engine 63. As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, grief there was so fresh, nobody wanted to speak on-camera Wednesday.
The procession that accompanied Stringer’s body as it left Northwestern Memorial Hospital speaks to the love for this member of the Chicago Fire Department.
His captain says Stringer was always last to leave after his shift, because he enjoyed his job so much.
Outside his home on Chicago’s Far West Side, a family friend or relative hung an American flag in tribute to Stringer, a father of two.
Ankum is survived by his wife and three young children. His wife is the secretary of Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Glover describes Ankum as a family man who adored his kids and loved his wife.
Ankum’s brothers at Engine 72 have set up the “Firefighter Corey Ankum Memorial Fund.” Donations can be made through Chase Bank.
Two fire department families are hit hard as they mourn the loss of two men who knew the risks of their job but loved doing it anyway.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot, Roseanne Tellez and Kristyn Hartman contributed to this report.