ANSONIA, Conn. (WTNH) — It was a large fire that sent thick, black smoke soaring into the air that could be seen for miles around The Naugatuck Valley.
It was May 14, 2001 — the day the Latex Foam factory in Ansonia burst into flames. It was also the day Annie Eheman burst into tears.
“I was scared,” she told News8. “For the first time in all the years we’ve been together, I was scared.”
Her husband — her high school sweetheart, Mike Eheman, an Ansonia firefighter, was trapped inside.
“It got really desperate in there,” Mike said. “At one point I was gasping for air.”
Fortunately, Mike made it out alive. He was burned and rushed to the hospital.
“I had an angel on my shoulder that day,” he said.
“I had to have a lot of faith that day and I prayed,” Annie said.
News8 speaking with Connecticut firefighters and their families after the recent tragedy in New Haven, where firefighter Ricardo Torres, Jr. gave the ultimate sacrifice trying to help others from a structure fire.
The loved ones of these heroes say they know the risks everyday when their loved ones head to work. That’s why for couples like The Ehemans, there’s a daily routine they never take for granted.
“Everyday we kiss each other and I say I love her,” Mike said.
Dianne Mudry, wife of Ansonia Fire Chief Dan Mudry, tells News8 she has her ears on the emergency scanner.
“I always listen to it,” she said. “I like to know what’s going on.”
She recalls one day, Dan had a close call fighting a structure fire.
“He was up in the attic and he went through the floor,” she said. “You just pray he comes home every night safely.”
They say some days can be agonizing. But, they have faith in the training and the family of fellow firefighters — those who are in uniform and the loved ones who are not. They all try to pull each other through the good times and the bad.
As for the family and peers of firefighter Torres who are hurting in New Haven right now, the men and women News8 spoke with in Ansonia have a message for all of them:
“My heart sank for the firefighters who lost a brother and for the wife who lost probably her best friend,” Annie said. “You are in the thoughts of every firefighting family out there.”