- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2001

John Tyrone "Big John" Williams would have been 53 yesterday and nearing retirement from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.
Instead, the station where he worked was named in honor of the firefighter, father and Vietnam veteran who died while battling a blaze on Dec. 19, 1984.
"The big house" at 1300 New Jersey Ave. NW became the John T. Williams Building after a two-year crusade by his daughter, who was eight years old when he died, and a ceremony marking his heroism, courage and gregariousness.
"I hope this can bring closure and peace to all those who have been affected by his death," said Angelique Williams. "Daddy, I want you to know we love you. We did it all for you."
"He loved his job. If he had to do it all over again, he would, to make the ultimate sacrifice. Thats the type of person he was," she said.
Firefighter Williams was one of a five-member crew on Rescue Squad 1 that responded to box alarm 144 at a decrepit cinema in the 800 block of 14th Street NW, a week before Christmas in 1984. While searching for anyone trapped in the fire, he fell through a trap door from the second floor to the basement and died from the fall.
"It was very traumatic," Miss Williams said after the ceremony. "But God is good. My heart is just full, full of joy. Words cant describe the gratitude I have for everyone who helped me. And without God, I know it wouldnt have been possible."
Chief Ronnie Few honored Miss Williams with her fathers badge, and the two of them unveiled a plaque on the front of the fire station.
Surrounded by more than 20 family members and friends, she wiped tears away as she put her hand on the sign.
In the traditional honor formation for fallen firefighters, two trucks in front of the station extended their ladders to form an arch, from which an American flag hung. A six-person honor guard in full uniform and with two bolt-action rifles presented the colors.
"In this sanctuary," said the Rev. Donnell Peterman, "every hour and every day, men and women give of themselves. We do not need to call upon God, because he is already here."
Margret Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, called Firefighter Williams a "symbol of courage and dedication" of the citys firefighters.
"His heroism will live on in our memory and the example he set will continue on as a light to us," she said.
The ceremony culminated Miss Williams two-year effort, begun when she noticed the citys 4th Police District station was named in honor of Officer Brian T. Gibson, who was killed in the line of duty in 1997.
"I decided to go out and do something for my dad," said Miss Williams, 24, a Howard University student.
She collected hundreds of signatures from firefighters and residents, made scores of phone calls and accumulated a mountain of paperwork. D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, helped get approval from the council and Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
Chief Few apologized to Miss Williams during his remarks yesterday. "We may have overlooked your father in the past, and were very sorry about that," he said.
"Too many firefighters have died in the line of duty across this country," the chief said. "This is the greatest fire department in the United States. I will try to make sure they are safe, and put safety above everything else."
Deputy Fire Chief Beatrice Rudder credited Miss Williams as "the reason we are all here today. "Your persistence, compassion and love are the qualities that made this come to be, and they are the qualities your father also possessed," she said. "And that is the reason he always remains in our hearts."
Marian Blagman and Gertrude Scott, friends with Firefighter Williams and his family since they were teens, recalled his caring. Mrs. Scott was in a bus accident near Firefighter Williams house in the early 1980s and walked away from the wreck in shock, unaware her shoulder was fractured.
"He heard the crash and came running down the street," said Mrs. Blagman. "He saw her walking away and got her in an ambulance."
"I didnt feel any pain at the time," Mrs. Scott said. "I said, 'Im not going to the hospital. And he said, 'Yes, you are."


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