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Families, Friends Of Fallen Firefighters Try To Cope With Loss

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Left: Firefighter Edward Stringer Right: Firefighter Corey Ankum (Photos From The Chicago Fire Department)

Left: Firefighter Edward Stringer Right: Firefighter Corey Ankum (Photos From The Chicago Fire Department)

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Updated 12/23/2010 at 9:30 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – There is a wave of support tonight for the families of two fallen Chicago firefighters. On Thursday, the firefighters’ bodies were moved from the medical examiner’s office to two funeral homes.

A solemn procession of fire and police officials led the ambulances carrying the firefighters’ remains.

Meanwhile, looming large over the Christmas celebrations on Daley Plaza, the giant flags outside City Hall, were lowered to half-staff; a visible reminder of the city’s grief.

Firefighters Corey Ankum and Edward Stringer died Wednesday. A roof collapsed on top of them as they searched through a vacant burned-out building on the South Side.

CBS 2′s Suzanne Le Mignot reports on how the families are handling the tragedy.

They’re handling this devastating situation with the help of many.

At the home of Chicago firefighter Corey Ankum, the department’s chaplain spent a great deal of time with his family today, to help them cope spiritually with their great loss.

The support for the Ankums didn’t end there. A steady flow of well-wishers arrived at the home of the Chicago firefighter. Among them, were members of his fire-fighting family.

“To digest what happened, it’s not going to be done in a day,” said Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff. “It’s not going to be done in a week, for his wife, his mom, his kids. The Christmas tree is up. They were all ready for Christmas.”

When asked if he’s spoken to Ankum’s children, Hoff said, “They’re just happy little children that don’t know what happened right now.”

Ankum was the father of three. His youngest child, a son, is just 1.

Ankum, 34, and firefighter Edward Stringer, 47, died yesterday fighting a fire in the South Shore neighborhood.

Ankum became trapped under debris when the roof and a wall of the abandoned burning building collapsed.

The 100 Club of Chicago visited Ankum’s widow, presenting her with the first of two checks for the family.

“It’s heart-wrenching to be with this family and to be there to experience her loss,” said 100 Club of Chicago Executive Director Joe Ahern. “The 100 Club provides $50,000 to the family, and then of course we’ll be able to support all the dependent children with college education in the future.”

“The best thing that we can do, as a fire department, as a group of people is show that we care, show that we love them, and if they need anything, we’re going to be there for them,” Hoff said.

Meanwhile, well-wishers paid their respects to Stringer’s relatives at the fallen firefighter’s Garfield Ridge home. They went with food and whatever they could bring to help.

Neighbor Paul Mulligan understands the outpouring, saying Stringer was generous -– he shoveled snow from neighbors’ walkways — and had a great sense of humor.

“Most of the time he got the best of you, but it was in a good way, always in a good way,” Mulligan told CBS 2′s Kristyn Hartman.

At Engine 63, fellow firemen say he was a lot of fun around the firehouse, and a true, dedicated professional in the field.

President of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 Tom Ryan said, “They are heroes. They’re our heroes, and they deserve a proper sendoff and we will give that to them.”

Funeral arrangements for both firefighters are still being made.

When asked if there was anything else he would like to share, Commissioner Hoff said to tell Chicago to pray for both firefighters, their families, and the firefighters still recovering from their injuries — with Christmas just two days away.

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