Friends, family and firefighters came together Friday night for the first of several planned memorials and services to remember Wilmington Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, who died in the Canby Park fire early Saturday morning.
The dreary night with the pouring down rain and wind set the scene for the sadness felt by many walking out of the Grace Lutheran Church in Hockessin.
Many remembered Fickes as a good husband, father, friend and hero.
Donna DeFilippis knows the family as their children went to school together at Cab Calloway.
"The family is holding up fairly well considering the situation," said DeFilippis. "Laura is a friend of mine. (I know) Jerry from school, and our kids went to school together, and it's a very supportive family, a religious family. I think they'll get through this."
Those not affiliated with any fire department marveled on how the first responder community comes together at times like this, among those attending the viewing included a lieutenant from the Bridgeport, Connecticut Fire Department.
But those within the firefighter community showed up in large numbers. Maria Milton is the wife of a Wilmington firefighter.
"It's a tight community--the Wilmington Fire Department--we're always there for each other. I'm a wife of a Wilmington firefighter, and to be there for her and the family to give great support. Like I said, we're a very tight family, and we'll help them get through this," said Milton.
Those not associated with any fire department, but friendly with the Fickes family also showed up to support the family.
"Utter devastation knowing that their son, Ben, is a freshman in college right now, and in his first month of school, he learns that he's lost his dad, so that's tough," said Lynn Fabian, a teacher who taught Fickes son in 2nd grade.
There was also anger and disbelief that Fickes' death was caused by a possible arson. Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, the daughter of the homeowner was charged with arson and murder in the Canby Park fire that killed Fickes and Lt. Christopher Leach, who will be remembered in a public viewing and funeral service at St. Elizabeth's Church in Wilmington. Fickes will also be laid to rest Friday in a private service. Both firefighters will be memorialized at the Chase Center on the Riverfront Saturday in a service that's expected to draw thousands, including Vice President Joe Biden.
"It's such a waste, it was an unnecessary fire, it's an unnecessary death, I hope she's horribly penalized," said Lon Marcus of Pike Creek. Marcus knows the Fickes family.
Fabian like many who talked with WDEL heard of the charges at the viewing.
"I really don't think you can make sense of it," she said. "No thoughts."