" Dad, Mr. Johnson was killed in a fire at 58th," my son Conor informed me last night when he came home from work. God, no. Poor Susan and the kids. His brothers and sisters all Chicago cops and his boy in the Marines. Our parish lost Brian Egan early this week and now Herbie.
“He was the first one to go in,” all of the time.
Christ called Captain Herbie Johnson home on All Souls Day. Herbie Johnson was the quintessential Catholic gentleman, a man always surrounded by squads of laughing and worshipping little boys and girls on the Maplewood block or in the alley, a guy who radiated love, fun and family, a fierce doer. The family that he saved know of our loss.
Soria said she saw Captain Johnson on top of the house on the roof at one point. “He was the first one to go in,” Soria said.
Upon hearing news that the captain had died, the families of the charred building were shocked.
“We feel very bad,” Soria said. “He tried to save our lives,” said Ortiz.
“We didn’t think this would happen,” Soria said in Spanish. “Oh, God.”
Longino Soto, 43, who lives on the home’s first floor, said in Spanish: “I feel bad.”
“It could have been any one of us,” he said.
When Johnson was pulled from the blaze, witnesses watched as his fellow firefighters fought to save him, performing chest compressions before loading him into an ambulance. He was brought down to the home’s porch, still wearing his air mask.
“They pulled him out,” Maria Retiguin, 41, who lives across the street from the fire. “He was the first one in. He looked very bad. I was scared.” Sun Times
Herbie Johnson grew up that way. A kid from St. Basil's on the Boulevard who shares the dangers remembers,
Johnson was assigned to Engine Co. 123 in Gage Park Friday, but usually worked from firehouses all around the city.Christ be good to you, Captain!
One firefighter who knew Johnson since they were kids said he will always remember his old friend's laugh.
“He was the best, he was the best guy,’’ said Chicago Fire Dept. Lt. Steve O’Malley, who had been relieved by Johnson around 6 a.m. Friday from Engine 123, Tower Ladder 39, on 51st Street after O’Malley had worked a 48-hour shift.
“He was his usual crazy self, laughing,’’ O’Malley said in a telephone interview, his voice shaking. “He always had a smile on his face."
O’Malley said he and Johnson talked about their old stomping grounds, the St. Basil neighborhood, where they both grew up near 58th and Winchester. They knew each other since grade school.
“I grew up with the whole family,’’ said O’Malley. “He was an all around great guy and great fireman. What a big-time, huge loss to the department. He was loved by everybody.
“We fight fires all the times, we had three that day. But now it hurts. Now it hurts,’’ O'Malley said.
Firefighters were called to the frame home in the Gage Park neighborhood around 5:15 p.m., according to Fire Department spokeswoman Meg Ahlheim. It was quickly raised to a 2-11 alarm, and an emergency medical services plan was called sending six ambulances to the scene, she said.
Family members said eight children, ages 2 to 14, were in the living room with an adult, and other adults were in the second-floor kitchen when they started to see smoke outside the windows. . . .Johnson is survived by his wife, Susan, a daughter and two sons, Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said outside the hospital hours after the fire. One son is in college and the other in the U.S. Marine Corps. Three brothers are Chicago police officers, a sister is a retired Chicago cop and another brother is a Chicago firefighter. Chicago Tribune