Rumor has it the city is trying to erase the Charleston 9 from our Fire Department, and our history.
Some people are whispering that new fire trucks carry no mention of the nine firefighters who died in the Sofa Super Store disaster seven years ago.
All the memorial gifts from other departments and cities have been stuck in crates, hidden away in some warehouse.
As the names of the Charleston 9 wear off trucks, the department will not allow them to be replaced.
There is no memorial to the nine men in the new fire headquarters, as promised.
The people who are spreading these horror stories say the problem here is Fire Chief Karen Brack.
They call her "heartless," "evil," a "disgrace." They have taken their concerns to city council.
The one thing many of them haven't done, however, is ask the chief.
This sort of talk has been going around the Charleston Fire Department since shortly after Brack joined in 2012 - five years after The Fire.
Earlier this year, the rumor was the city would cancel the annual memorial service at the site of the tragedy.
It doesn't matter that most of these things are just wrong, or easily disproved. This is one fire that Brack just can't put out.
A consistent policy
Let's take them one at a time:
The new fire station/headquarters at King and Heriot streets has a plaque on the wall in memory of the Charleston 9. It's a nice honor, courtesy of the Rotary Club.
It's true that all the signs, gifts, stuffed animals and statuary are not there. That's because the Fire Department is planning to turn part of the Wentworth Street station into a museum to honor the city's fallen firefighters - the Charleston 9 and the roughly two-dozen others who have died in the line of duty.
As for the trucks, well, the department's Apparatus Committee - which is made up of firefighters - decided long before Brack was chief that all equipment should have a consistent honor. Now new trucks have a single "Charleston 9" memorial sticker on them.
"I would never go to anyone and say I want to take the names of the Charleston 9 off anything," Brack says. "I haven't changed anything since I got here."
In fact, Brack has been meeting with some of the families of the 9, discussing plans for a permanent memorial on the site of the fire.
She is also working with the sister of another of the 9 to bring the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation's Survivors Conference to Charleston in 2017, which will be the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.
That will allow the family members of the Charleston 9 to get support and comfort from others who have gone through the same sort of life-changing experiences.
That doesn't exactly sound like sweeping anything under the rug.
The real memorial
The families of the Charleston 9 have been a little wary of the city since the fire.
They felt that, during the investigation, the city was more concerned with protecting its reputation than getting to the bottom of what went wrong.
Fair enough. They were - are - in pain, and you cannot fault them for that. Some of the families have even asked Brack what's going on, and she has told them. She invites any of them to come talk to her at any time.
But some don't ask. They simply get upset when they hear the conspiracies whispered from station to station. And there is no shortage of conspiracy theories in the Charleston Fire Department.
The problem, it seems, is that some people are focused on the little things, and missing the big picture.
The memory of the Charleston 9 is more than a collection of signs, flags and stuffed animals. These men are honored by the changes their deaths prompted.
As a result of the Sofa Super Store fire, the Charleston Fire Department has implemented new training, updated its policies, bought new equipment. There is now countywide cooperation between fire departments. And there is a greater focus on firefighter health, both physical and mental. Fire department staff and their families can now take courses on the stress of the job. And there is no shortage of stress.
Every new recruit is taken to the site of The Fire and taught the lessons learned by the deaths of those 9 firefighters.
All of this has made the Charleston Fire Department better, and cut down on the chances that something like that ever happens again.
And there is no better memorial, no better legacy, than that.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com.
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