HOUSTON – Anne Sullivan, who has been training to be a firefighter for more than three years, was assigned to Fire Station 68 after she graduated in April from the Houston Fire Department’s Academy.
Station 68, located on Bissonnet and South Gessner, is one on the busiest in the city. There the 24-year-old rookie worked with fellow fighter Robert Garner, 29. Both Sullivan and Garner were among the four firefighters who were killed during Friday’s five-alarm fire at the Southwest Inn off the Southwest Freeway.
Friends and colleagues are devastated by Sullivan’s death, and talked about how determined and driven she was to become a firefighter.
“You could see the determination in her face and the drive that she always had. That never left her,” Cpt. Brian Gazaway, of the Community Volunteer Fire Department, said.
Sullivan volunteered about 40 hours a week for three years at the Community Volunteer Fire Department before joining HFD.
“We were gathered together in the living room in the station, when we got the call. That is the only word, devastated,” Gazaway said.
Flags are at half-staff and black bands are worn in honor of Sullivan at her first station. Her fellow colleagues stood there with heavy hearts and told each other funny stories about Sullivan. Her first firefighting gear rests in front of the fire station, where they called her “Punky.”
“With good reason, always in good spirits, always a smile on her face, nothing ever got her down,” Gazaway said.
Gazaway said that Sullivan’s goal from the time she started volunteering in 2009 was to become a paid firefighter.
“She’s one of the strongest, hardest women I’ve ever known, she worked out a lot” said Ryche Guerrero, a fellow colleague and photographer. He snapped many pictures of her while she was at fires.
Sullivan’s family is mourning in Sugarland, and her neighbors described her as the “perfect girl next door.”
“I remember her throughout the years being a crossing guard at the elementary school,” Marcie Weismann, a neighbor, said.
Other firefighters said Sullivan loved to exercise and would run about 10 miles a day.
“You hear of the veteran firefighters, but you don’t think of someone young going into help other people, save their lives to give up their own lives at such a young age,” Weissman said.