Fire trucks lined Grand Blvd. Saturday afternoon and an American flag hovered above a crowd gathered outside the Sprint Center. They were there to honor two fallen Kansas City firefighters.
Larry Leggio and John Mesh were given full public honors during a memorial that drew thousands to downtown Kansas City.
Mayor Sly James and Kansas City Fire Department Chief Paul Berardi spoke first to the crowd before presenting folded American flags to the families of the deceased. The flags had flown above the U.S. Capitol Monday, the day the two firefighters died when a wall of a burning building along Independence Ave. collapsed on them.
"Each of us as made a wish upon a wish that Larry and John were right here, right now, wearing Royal blue with their family with a beer in hand, or sitting around the kitchen table at the firehouse getting ready to watch the Royals pre-game," said Chief Berardi. "Tragically that was not to be."
Joe Mike Leggio, Larry Leggio's brother, spoke about the Leggio families' 50 years history with the Kansas City Fire Department. Joe Leggio said their father was a 26 year veteran of the department, and Larry always wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.
"Larry spent 17 incredible years with this department, and he loved every minute of it," said Joe Leggio. "Larry Leggio and John Mesh will live in our hearts forever. Our families will find strength knowing that these brave men died saving others. We love you both, and we will never, ever forget."
Giovanna Caponetto, John Mesh's niece, spoke on behalf on the Mesh family. She praised Mesh's love for his four daughters and his humble composure in the face of his job as a firefighter.
"He wore his badge of honor not for any kind of recognition, but for the pride he had in doing the best he could at upholding the proud heritage of the Kansas City Fire Department brotherhood," said Caponetto.
The memorial ended with the ringing of the bell that Chief Berardi said represented the end of a firefighter's duties and the return to quarters.
"Their tasks completed, their duties well done, they're going home."
An ongoing investigation into the blaze was suspended so that the investigators could join the ceremony. The investigation is expected to end sometime next week.