Willoughby Tower Firefighter Memorial
One of the things Chicago does well is honor its police and firefighters. Especially those who die in the line of duty. At Chicago fire station #1 (419 South Wells Street), there is a memorial to two firefighters who were killed in one of the Loop’s skyscrapers.
It happened about a mile away at the Willoughby Tower (8 South Michigan Avenue) in September of 1981. One member of a group of firefighters trying to escape a smoky corridor plunged 16 stories down an open elevator shaft. Another firefighter who went back to look for his missing comrade also fell down the same shaft.
Today, Joseph Hitz and Craig McShane are remembered with a stone plaque donated to fire station 1 by the nearby Chicago Board of Trade.
Six other firefighters were hospitalized by the blaze which started in boxes of papers stored in an elevator. For those of us who are vexed by sirens every time an old lady burns her toast in our building, it’s a good reminder that even a mere two-alarm fire, like this one was, has to be taken seriously.