Congressmen Clyburn and Brown Honor Fallen Charleston Firefighters

Jun 19, 2007

(Washington, DC) – House Majority Whip and Sixth District Congressman James E. Clyburn and First District Congressman Henry Brown led the U.S. House of Representatives today in a moment of silence to honor the nine fallen Charleston firefighters.  They made the following statements on the floor followed by the moment of silence.

Statement of Congressman Henry Brown:
Last night 9 brave firefighters from my district lost their lives in the line of duty.  Responding to a fire in the West Ashley area of Charleston, these men made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our community in what was the single worse loss of firefighters since 9/11.  This tragedy is a somber reminder of the dangers our first responders face on a daily basis as they serve to protect us and our property.  We are forever grateful for their service and deeply saddened by their loss. 

Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of these courageous men:  Capt. William “Billy” Hutchinson, Capt. Mike Benke, Capt. Louis Mulkey, Engineer Mark Kelsey, Engineer Bradford “Brad” Baity, Asst Engineer Michael French, Fire Fighter James “Earl” Drayton, Fire Fighter Brandon Thompson and Fire Fighter Melven Champaign. 

These men, who had over 100 years of service among them, gave their life doing a job they loved.   

Statement of Congressman Jim Clyburn:
Not since 9/11 have we been reminded so poignantly of the sacrifice our first responders make to protect our safety.  These nine firefighters gave the ultimate sacrifice last night doing the jobs they loved.  As Charlestonians, South Carolinians and Americans, we are grateful for their service and deeply saddened by their loss. 

Our hearts go out to their families and their colleagues. This devastating loss is one that touched the hearts of our entire nation, and we grieve with them.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve...You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."  

These firefighters were public servants in the truest sense.  They answered the call to serve their community, and today Charleston is a better place for their service.  Between the nine that perished was a combined 100 years of service to the Charleston fire department.  This is a remarkable testament to their dedication and selflessness.  Their experience and service cannot be replaced and their contributions will not be forgotten.

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