By Elizabeth Hur
GLOUCESTER CITY, N.J. (CBS) – On Independence Day, a tragic anniversary is marked in Gloucester City, Camden County.
Three firefighters and three sisters were killed in a house fire.
Nicholas Stewart said, “It’s amazing because I did not know that it happened and then it’s sad because it was my dad.”
Nicholas Stewart was a one-year-old toddler in 2002 when his father, Gloucester City firefighter Thomas Stewart III along with Chief James Sylvester and Deputy Chief John West of Mount Ephiram Fire Department died trying to save three girls trapped inside their burning home.
The home was destroyed and six lives were lost on that Independence Day. So on this day, a remembrance ceremony was held for the community to say thank you.
Gloucester City Fire Department Captain Daniel McGlinsey explained, “We’re a small community. So, when something like this happens, we want to remember it forever.”
Firefighter Mark Campanell added, “Today, we are giving people in this day and age a stark reminder of what true heroes do.”
Campanell is one of five firefighters rescued from the burning building when the roof collapsed.
“Their lives were very important to all of us or we wouldn’t be here today,” Campanell said.
Thomas Stewart Jr., now a retired member of the Gloucester City Fire Department, lost his son in the four-alarm blaze.
“It was an honor for me that they recognized my son and recognized my grandson. I was real proud. That was a very touching moment,” Stewart recalled of the moment when Nicholas received a replica of his fallen father’s helmet.
“Knowing that this was my dad’s helmet and that it was getting passed along to me was a good feeling,” Nicholas said.
Organizers say it was a symbolic move to mark the tragedy’s 10-year anniversary from those who vow to never forget.