For MaShawn Plummer, becoming a firefighter earlier this year was a launching point for the rest of his life.
Plummer, 30, wanted to be good at his job and had dreams of advancing to the rank of chief. He and his girlfriend were preparing for the next step: marriage and kids.
“He had his life mapped out but, but God said ‘No,’” Plummer’s mother, Felicia Townsend Plummer, said Wednesday at a memorial service outside the fire station in Portage Park where the rookie firefighter had worked for several months.
Plummer died Tuesday, five days after he was critically injured while fighting an apartment fire in the Belmont Central neighborhood.
“He died doing what he loved doing. I have solace in knowing he died with dignity and grace and being of service,” Townsend Plummer told a crowd of about 100 people who gathered in front of the fire house in freezing temperatures.
“He died a hero,” said Plummer’s father, Jermaine Plummer, a field manager with Christy Webber, a landscaping company.
“I have to know what happened from the time he got on that truck. From the time he got to the hospital. I need to know, I need to know,” his mother said at the memorial.
An investigation into what led to Plummer’s death is underway, a Fire Department spokesman said Wednesday.
“This would have been his first big fire,” his mother said. “He’s put out kitchen fires and stuff like that. He was never apprehensive about going into a big fire, but in time he knew that would happen.”
Plummer grew up in Englewood and lived with his parents at his boyhood home near 51st Street and Lowe Avenue at the time he died.
“From the moment he got that letter saying it was time to report to the training academy, he was so overjoyed and he told me ‘This is my time to make a difference, my time to show people where I came from, that we can, we don’t have to be confined by where we live, our touch can reach far.’ And he got that opportunity, although it was short,” she said.
“We’re very proud,” said Jermaine Plummer.
“He loved life. That was his mission, to show love to anybody. There’s never been a time that anybody said anything negative about him...but that positivity and love he showed everywhere he went,” said Townsend Plummer, a record keeper at a law firm.
“He would do impromptu dance moves when he was happy. It was so silly because he wasn’t a good dancer,” she said with a laugh. “It’s not true, all Black people can’t dance, he had no rhythm.
“My heart is heavy but I have so much joy because I know he touched so many people. He was that bright light in the room, the person that made you just say, ‘Who is that guy? I want to meet him,” she said.
Plummer, who had four sisters, attended Hales Franciscan High School before transferring to another school to play football. He was a defensive lineman.
Plummer graduated from Quincy University and worked for UPS and C.H. Robinson before joining the fire department, his family said.
Felicia Townsend Plummer expressed disappointment that Mayor Lori Lightfoot never visited with family at the hospital where her son was being treated before he died.
“The mayor called and she sent a text. I just wish she would have come to the hospital, and I know she’s busy, and I’m not political, I have no connections to any party or any vested interest, but I just wish she did. My son is a firefighter who worked for this city, who worked under her. Just come and see. Just come see. That’s it, that’s it, that’s all we want,” she said.
Eladio Luis Gomez, 37, lived in the basement of the apartment building that caught fire and also died as a result of the blaze.
His mother, Rita Velez, attended the memorial Wednesday and thanked firefighters for their efforts in trying to save her son.
She sobbed as she embraced Plummer’s mother and told her, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
A woman and a man who suffered injuries in the fire were still hospitalized in critical condition.
Later Wednesday, at a memorial for the 21 firefighters who died at the Union Stockyards Fire in 1910, Lightfoot took a moment to recognize Plummer and offer thanks and condolences.
“He gave his all to protect the residents of this great city, knowing that at any given point in time, he may have to come face to face with danger,” she said.