For years, the bustling retail corridor along U.S. Highway 17 in West Ashley has been known as Savannah Highway, for the city that marks its Southern destination, or as the "auto mile," for its collection of car dealerships.
Soon, this stretch will have a more poignant name, one designed to keep a tragic memory alive through the ages.
With wide support, state lawmakers have approved a bill naming a 3.6-mile portion of U.S. 17 the "Charleston Nine Memorial Highway," after the nine city firefighters who died in the June 18 Sofa Super Store fire.
The stretch of road runs from the intersection with S.C. Highway 171 to Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and includes the sofa store site, which the city hopes to acquire and turn into a memorial.
State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, a Charleston Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, said the move will provide a fitting tribute to the fallen firefighters and ensure that people will always remember what happened.
"I just felt like we needed to honor the commitment all of us made: that we were never going to forget these guys — their bravery, their courage and their sacrifice," he said.
Stavrinakis said he plans to contact officials from the S.C. Department of Transportation this week to begin making arrangements for a formal dedication of the highway.
"I know a lot of people are going to want to be there," he said.
Jean Dangerfield, whose brother Michael French died in the blaze, said she had suggested the road renaming to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley during a memorial luncheon in December. She was thrilled to learn Monday that lawmakers had made the idea a reality.
"I'm just so happy there will be something there to represent them," she said. "This is one way of keeping their memories alive."
Mark Ruppel, public information officer for the Charleston Fire Department, offered Stavrinakis the department's thanks for pushing for the change. Ruppel called the honor "a fitting and most appropriate tribute."