Missy Leggio found herself holding onto her husband's fire helmet hours after his funeral.
She is surrounded by memories, but some touch deeper than others.
She went to Larry Leggio's Midtown fire station after he was laid to rest Tuesday and collected his belongings. She said Wednesday that she finds herself simply drawn to them at all hours.
"Last night I came down to hold it and smell it. Came down a couple of times, to hold it and remember the smell," she said.
Anything to hold on to the husband she married four years ago.
"It was the best years of my life," she said.
Their life together ended abruptly on Oct. 12 when Larry Leggio and his station comrades went to assist at an apartment fire near the Leggio home in the old Northeast. In a cruel twist of fate, Missy Leggio was there when the building collapsed on her husband, John Mesh and other firefighters.
Larry Leggio and Mesh were killed while three others were injured. Larry Leggio and Mesh died moments after they helped rescue people from the burning building and after firefighters had been ordered to evacuate the building. The building collapsed on the men in a tight alley as they poured water on a nearby building in an effort to keep the flames from spreading.
Smoke will always make Missy Leggio think of her husband.
She used to always tell him when he would come home from a fire and crawl into bed that he smelled like smoke.
"And he would say, 'We had a good one last night baby,'" she recalled.
That smell still lingers inside his helmet, and it brings a small measure of comfort.
From the time he was a little boy, Larry Leggio, 43, always wanted to be a firefighter. His dad was a firefighter for 26 years for the Kansas City Fire Department.
"We always hoped he would follow in his dad's footsteps. It was very tough for Larry when our dad died in 1991," Larry Leggio's older brother, Joe Mike Leggio, said.
Larry Leggio was only 18 when his father passed. He had a rough road and a tough time getting onto the fire department, his brother recalls.
"It didn't matter if you were a firefighter's son or not. It was tough," he said. "He gave up for a while and thought maybe it wasn't for him."
However, his family still had hope that he would one day land his dream job. And in 1998, he finally did.
"It was the best thing that could ever happen to him, next to Missy," Joe Mike Leggio said.
Later in his firefighting career, Larry Leggio was promoted to fire apparatus operator and moved to truck No. 2, "the Deuce," in Midtown.
Missy Leggio had lots of things to worry about with her husband during their eight-year relationship.
"He was a wild soul, lived life to the fullest and did everything to the max ... including the speedometer on his motorcycle. I worried everyday he pulled out of the driveway and waited for him to pull back in," she said.
On his days off, Larry Leggio enjoyed fishing and hunting with his fellow firefighters and extended family, especially trips to Arkansas for duck hunting and to Lake Taneycomo for fishing.
His nieces and nephew loved having him and his wife with them on summer trips to Table Rock Lake in Branson.
The two also loved trips to the beach where they always made new friends. None of the trips will ever be the same without him.
Now, Missy Leggio is taking life minute-by-minute with the help of her husband’s older brother and his family by her side.
"I don't know if people know what a big, giant heart Larry had. He didn't do it for attention, he did it because he was a good man," Joe Mike Leggio said.
On the night of the fire, Missy Leggio was driving home from the grocery store and saw the flames near their residence. She went to the scene while she was talking to her mother-in-law.
Last summer, she went to a blaze when a large home down the street from them caught fire.
"I woke Larry up, and he ran out in his underwear and flip flops, helping the guys pull hoses," she recalled.
It was in his blood.
"If there was a fire close, he would stop what he was doing and turn the stove off and go to it," Missy Leggio said.
But last Monday, it was Missy Leggio that found herself compelled to find the source of the fire and then she saw the lights and the trucks and the smoke.
"I saw smoke, fire, debris. I heard lots of chaos. Different tones of alarms I have never heard before," she remembered.
One of her husband's good friends and comrades, who ironically had been tapped to notify the family in case of Larry Leggio's death, happened to see Missy Leggio at the scene.
That friend cradled her in his arms and carried her to Fire Chief Paul Berardi's vehicle as they rushed her to the hospital to be with her dying husband.
She would later learn that those different alarms she heard that night were the mayday sounds from her husband and Mesh, who was her husband's lifelong friend.
Combined, Larry Leggio and Mesh had 30 years on the job with the KCFD, but they knew each other for far longer than that. They grew up together not far from the place where they lost their lives.
"The Mesh family was a very popular family in the Northeast. Everyone knew the Mesh's, just like everyone knew the Leggio's. We all grew up in the same neighborhood where everyone knew everyone else," Joe Mike Leggio said.
And now the two families would meet again in a strange intersection of their lives.
Missy Leggio met Mesh's wife for the first time at Truman Medical Center where their husbands would be pronounced dead.
The two are now laying side-by-side in the Legacy Garden of Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Donations have been pouring in for their families. The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 42 says the union has received about $54,000 in donations.
Other efforts include the sale of T-shirts and baseball caps The Independence School District also has set up a fund for Mesh's four daughters, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph created memorial scholarship funds honoring both firefighters.
As for the massive support from community, Missy Leggio says she would be lost without it.
"It definitely helps. I have co-workers and friends saying, 'I don't want to bother you.' But I keep telling them, 'Please, continue to bother me.' The amount of support I have gotten from strangers and the community from east coast to west coast. The outpouring of support from them ... if I get left alone, I just don't know, I am not ready for that," she said.
But for her husband, he would not have wanted all the attention. It was not his style.
"Larry loved being a firefighter, and that is what he wanted to do. He didn't want any praise or glory for it," Joe Mike Leggio said. "He's forever changed my life, and I hope he continues to give me the strength to move forward."
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