Fifteen-years-ago this morning DCFD Sergeant John Michael Carter failed to make it out of a fire in a small corner grocery at 400 Kennedy Street in Northwest Washington. Sergeant Carter had fallen into the basement as his crew left the building. Today, our thoughts are with the family and many friends of John Carter.
I knew John Carter, but not extremely well. More of a passing, “Hi, how are you?” and a few words on a fireground or a wave, as he did shortly before his death during a visit to the TV station where I worked. But I learned all about John Carter two days after he was gone and it was one of the more unforgettable experiences in 38-years of covering news.
Photo of 400 Kennedy Street, NW by Dave J. Iannone. Click here for more images.
On Sunday morning, October 26, 1997, IAFF Local 36 Vice President Kenny Cox called and said that Debbie Carter wanted to do an interview with me about her husband. It was a surprise because, out of respect, we were keeping our distance and I hadn’t even requested an interview. But I consider it one of the great honors of my life to get that call.
To this day, my friend videographer Greg Guise and I are still in awe of what we witnessed. Despite this unbelievable loss occurring just two days earlier, Debbie sat perfectly composed telling us about her husband. She was not going to let tears get in the way of letting everyone know who John Carter was. There was even a proud smile on her face at times as she talked about John Carter, the firefighter, father and husband.
Photo by Dave Iannone.
But it was hard for anyone who saw the story not to shed some tears when we heard Debbie say how happy she was that very early on a chilly Friday morning she decided to get out of bed and walk out of their Maryland home to give her husband a kiss as he headed off to what turned out to be his final shift. What a lesson for us all.
I’ve said it many, many times since that interview and I will say it again. We should all be as fortunate as John Carter was to have someone speak so eloquently on our behalf once we are gone.
Unfortunately because of a change in servers at WUSA9.com a few years back, that entire interview is no longer available online. But below is a story the station did two-years-ago about a scholarship for John and Debbie’s son Brian. Brian was just eight-years-old when his dad died. In the story is a small excerpt from that 1997 interview.
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