Michael Bushnell is the publisher of a small community newspaper in the northeast part of Kansas City. He covered the deadly fire last year that ended in the deaths of two Kansas City firefighters.
The fire caused a wall to collapse on the structure’s east side, spewing bricks and other debris into the alley where firefighters stood.
Larry Leggio and John Mesh, lifelong residents of northeast Kansas City, were caught in the rubble and died. Two other firefighters were injured.
Bushnell witnessed both Leggio and Mesh being loaded into ambulances. Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of their deaths.
On Friday at the Kansas City Museum, Bushnell reflected on that day during an unveiling of a memorial plaque to honor the fallen firefighters.
“I live pretty close, and I got there before a perimeter was set up,” Bushnell said. “It hit me pretty hard.”
The memorial is 42 inches by 42 inches of imported black granite, Bushnell said. It is permanently etched with images of the two men, their badges and badge numbers, and a short synopsis of what happened the night of the fire.
“We wanted to create a permanent and lasting memorial here in the neighborhood to memorialize John and Larry,” Bushnell said.
The unveiling ceremony included in attendance members of both families, fellow firefighters and Fire Chief Paul Berardi.
The memorial will remain on display at the museum for two weeks, then it will be installed in the west wall of Snyder’s Supermarket in early November. It is part of an exhibit titled “In the Line of Duty: A history of the Kansas City Missouri Fire Department.”
The exhibit features historical objects, archived materials and a restored 1927 fire truck. It officially opens Saturday.
Denise Morrison, director of collections for the museum, said the exhibit is a 100-year history of the department from 1868 to 1968.
“It’s a combination of history and artifacts,” Morrison said. “It has a lot of history on the Kansas City Fire Department that I don’t think a lot of people realize.”