Fallen firefighter honored 23 years later

August 17, 2009 4:22:37 AM PDT
A Chicago firefighter who was killed battling a hotel fire in January of 1986 was honored Sunday.Lt. Edmund Coglianese died Super Bowl Sunday 1986, the day the Chicago Bears won it all. However, Sunday, his widow accepted a sculpture and was thanked for the work she' has done for fallen firefighters.

The ceremony marked a moment the firefighter's widow, Eileen Coglianese, had decided would never come.

"It kind of blew me away. I was like, 'Oh my gosh,'" she told ABC7 Chicago.

Much to her surprise, the Chicago Fire Department honored her fallen husband during their annual family day picnic at 2300 S. Fort Dearborn in Chicago.

"I was 12 when I lost my father. It was a rough age to lose any parent, but we held strong," said the firefighter's daughter Allyson Murphy.

The special memorial to Coglianese came 23 years after his death largely because the sacrifice the firefighter made was overshadowed by the Bears' Super Bowl win the same day.

"I don't focus on the fact it happened on that day. It was so painful that it happened at all," Eileen Coglianese said.

Jan. 26, 1986, Lt. Edmund Coglianese and his engine company 98 responded to calls for help at the Mark Twain hotel. After leading several residents to safety, the veteran firefighter perished when he went back into the burning building to search for more survivors and became trapped himself.

Chicago Fire Department Engineer Gaines "Skip" Strader was there.

"I still have nightmares. Me and Ed were in the same room when this happened. I couldn't find him. I tried by best. I got burned. This brings up memories," he said.

Sunday's ceremony ended a three-month campaign to celebrate Coglianese , who is believed to be a true hero.

"Lives change, and not just for the average citizen. Sometimes, it's us, and when it does that, you have to pull out all the stops and do whatever you acknowledge that," said Paramedic Tim Dodero, who was an organizer for the special memorial.

At the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Sunday, Eileen Coglianese was presented with a sculpture of her husband's historic firehouse.

She may have also been given some closure.

"It's not just to be used on family day, but year round," said Captain William Madden of the Chicago Fire Department.

Eileen Coglianese has been an inspiration herself. She is a founding board member of the Chicago Fire Department's Gold Badge Society, which helps supports the families of duty death firefighters and paramedics. She also spearheaded the creation of the Fallen Firefighters and Paramedics Memorial Park, the place where her husband was honored posthumously.


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