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Friday, June 22, 2007

Signs, Crosses express grief of Lowcountry

By Rheana Murray
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Decorated with words, flowers and a photograph of a firefighter, nine wooden crosses stand in front of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on Wappoo Road.

Young hands created them during Sunday youth service.

The crosses join signs and billboards as one way Lowcountry residents are expressing thanks and grief over the loss of nine firefighters last week. Space that usually is reserved for help-wanted notices, sales information or self-promotion now is dedicated to memorializing lost lives and offering sympathy and prayers in a way reminiscent of 9/11.

On Sunday, there were exactly nine people at the youth service, said Pearl Jones, director of Christian Education at St. Andrews. "One per cross; it was perfect," she said. "We couldn't have done it any better if we'd planned it."

Jones said there are usually between five and 18 students.

The idea to decorate the crosses in memory of the firefighters who died at the Sofa Super Store in West Ashley came from church members Brandy and Brian Cence.

Just past the church, along Savannah Highway, signs outside local businesses also honor the lost men.

Prayers for the men and their families are on the sign hanging outside The Agent Owned Realty Co. Broker Claude Loadholdt said members of the company were friends with some of the firefighters, and one was a client.

"We're trying to show respect. I don't know when we'll take it down," he said. "How do you decide when it's been enough time?"

In Summerville, especially near Summerville High School, signs carrying similar messages are abundant. Louis Mulkey, one of the firefighters who died, was a coach and substitute teacher at the school, and the sign outside the building pays homage to the fallen firefighters.

Near the high school, Sheryl Winningham, owner of Pete's Fireworks, rearranged the letters on the sign hanging above her small stand to display a message blessing firefighters and their families. "We knew Louis, so we put that up for him and the rest of them," she said. Winningham's sons knew Mulkey from a church basketball league, which he also coached.

A sign hanging outside Alex's Restaurant in West Ashley calls for sympathy for the firefighters' families. Abby Scholl, a waitress at the 24-hour diner, says one of the men was a customer. "As far as the community, I'm glad we've come together," she said. "But it's a sad way to make history."


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