CLEVELAND — After 33 years, Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Mangan is retiring from the Cleveland Division of Fire. He says it is time for him to go, but he chose May 21, 2022, for a special reason.
Yes, it's 33 years, he told us. More importantly to Mangan, it is the anniversary of Cleveland's deadliest house fire. Nine people died when the home at 1220 E 87th street went up in flames.
Thirty-three-year-old Medeia Carter, four of her children, and four other children attending a 14th birthday sleepover could not be saved, despite the best efforts of firefighters who got the call that night.
"It was just a regular 'house on fire' call," Mangan said when we met with him recently at the vacant lot where the house once stood. "There was nothing that told us there's children trapped inside.
"I'm going to be honest, this is the third time I've been on this street. I tried to find it last week."
It's a self-defense mechanism Mangan and other first responders have used. He can't forget what happened here; he doesn't want others to forget, either.
"These are called triggering events," Mangan said. "We didn't get attached, I didn't go to the funerals, I didn't go to the wake. It's not good for your mental health."
However, Mangan delivered some of the most powerful and graphic testimony during two trials for the man who was ultimately convicted of intentionally starting the inferno. He won't say the man's name, but he reads from his testimony, describing the hellish sights, sounds, and smells of that night.
"I have arrived in hell," he said all those years ago. "To the left is a house, to the right is a woman whose skin is dripping from her body, her arms stretched out, more wings of skin falling off of her. She screams, 'My babies, my babies are in there.'"
Fakih Jones, age 7; Malee'ya Williams, age 12; Shauntavia Mitchell, age 12' Earnest Tate, Jr., age 13; Miles Golden Cockfield, age 13; Antwon Jackson, Jr. age 14; Moses Williams Jr., age 14; and Devonte Carter, age 15, all perished along with Medeia Carter.
Patrick Mangan would like to see a memorial to the children established. We will share more of his story Sunday night on "What's Next" at 11.