01-02-07 Thirty-one year old Phillip Townsend was remembered Tuesday by community members and by firefighters from both Texas and Oklahoma. Friends, family, and community members gave tearful goodbyes to Phillip Townsend in Denison.
It was a sanctuary filled to the brim with people paying respect to a man firefighters are calling a hero. Hundreds of area firefighters from Texas and Oklahoma gathered outside to show their support.
Townsend's cousin Tracy Traweek read letters from Phillips parents. His mother's letter said she left a voicemail on his cell phone the morning of the fatal fire saying “I love you and I'm so proud of you.” Phillip served alongside his father in the Denison fire department; family members say he became a firefighter to follow in dad's footsteps. They responded together to the blaze on Saturday.
“Phillip called me 'dad,' 2 minutes before he was killed," the letter read. "I put his air bottle on him and watched him die right before my eyes. He was just a rookie and we were supposed to protect him from such foolish dangers. I will never forgive myself."
Truth Tabernacle Pastor David Gilbert describes Phillip as a man with a mission. He remembered when Phillip decided to join the army and the fire department with an enthusiastic attitude, and always with a smile on his face.
“When he hurt he smiled, when his body was broken he smiled," Gilbert said. "Bad football tackles he smiled. Broken spirit, he had a way of smiling.” "Shari, (Phillip's mom) I guess he got it from you. He was the lovingest kid i've ever seen in all my life."
Bells rang out in the “Last Call” tradition for a fallen firefighter. Fellow firefighters are standing on the hope that they will see Phillip again. Said Roy Kukendall of the Denison Fire Department, “we rely and stand upon the blessed assurance that one day we will be reunited with Phillip in heaven with Jesus with him.”
Townsend leaves behind three young children. The family set up a fund at Independent Bank in Denison.