It was an early morning house fire, and Noonday Volunteer Firefighters Austin Cheek, 19, and Capt. Kevin Williams, 42, did not think twice about answering the call of duty. Sadly, it would be the last call these two brave firefighters would respond to.
The tragedy shook the entire Noonday area. Sunday night, members of the community showed they had not forgotten. The fire department held a concert, followed by a candlelight vigil. A memorial wall was also unveiled in memory of Austin Cheek and Kevin Williams. Other volunteer firefighters said their brothers' deaths have brought the community closer together.
One year after their tragic deaths, family and friends remembered their fallen loved ones and honored them as heroes.
"The last year, 20 years have just gone through my head, and I miss it all, and I miss him," said Austin Cheek's mother Tracey Bales. She had fond memories of her son. Family, friends, and faith are what helped her get through the last 12 months.
"It's been a hard year," she said.
"I've got shirts that are five times too big for me, but they were his, so I've kept them," said Amanda Williams. Capt. Kevin Williams was her dad. She said it doesn't hurt as much, now, but her father's death is something she still thinks about. She said knowing her father died doing what he loved to do--help people--is what got her through the last 12 months. One year later, the focus shifted.
"We're not here to mourn these guys anymore," said Bales. "Kevin and Austin would want us to honor them now." Members of the Noonday Fire Department said they're stronger, now, more than ever. They celebrated the lives of their fallen brothers; they said they're also working to make sure future lives are not lost.
"It really drives home to you [that] nobody's bullet proof, nobody's superman," said Dave Timmons, assistant chief of the of the department. "This can happen, anytime, anyplace."
"The actual firefighter policies we have are much stricter," said Gary Aarant, department chief. He said it was a learning experience for the entire crew. The two men will forever be remembered as heroes. They're gone, but not forgotten.
Captain Kevin Williams and Firefighter Austin Cheek will be honored along with other fallen firefighters across the country. Their families have been invited to the National Firefighter Memorial ceremony in Maryland this October.