CLINTON --- For a couple of hours Sunday morning, the stream of red-eyed mourners seemed endless.
The flag flew at half staff outside the Clinton Fire Department's central station as dozens from the city's fire-service family closed ranks inside. Shock had graduated to grief over the death early Saturday of Lt. Eric Hosette, who perished while fighting a fire at the ADM grain facility. About three hours after firefighters arrived on scene, an explosion claimed Hosette's life and seriously injured another man.
Firefighter Adam Cain, 23, remained in critical condition Sunday at University Hospitals in Iowa City.
Kim Asmussen was one of a half-dozen people to lay flowers at the base of the flag at Central Station Sunday. She is close with Cain's family, she said, and visited them Saturday in Iowa City.
"His mom let us know about 6:40 a.m. today (Sunday) that Adam had a decent night," she said. "He can't speak, and he's heavily sedated. At one point, he had tears rolling down his cheeks."
Asked whether Cain is aware that Hosette died in the blast, Asmussen said she doesn't think he knows. He is on a ventilator, she said, adding, "He's a very strong kid."
As family, friends and fellow firefighters prayed for Cain, they remembered Hosette. The 33-year-old's commitment to the fire service went beyond Clinton. He was elected in December to serve as chief of the volunteer fire department at Charlotte, which is about 20 miles northwest of Clinton.
The flag at the Charlotte station also flew at half staff, and a memorial to Hosette was on display outside the fire department, which also serves as city hall for the town of about 400.
In the driveway of the small station, Hosette's fellow firefighters set up a memorial, displaying his turnout gear in front of a fire truck, which was draped in black. A firefighter in Clinton for 12 years, Hosette leaves behind his wife, Kelly, and young daughter, Addy.
Inside, the scene was similar to that in Clinton. Crockpots and pizza boxes filled the small kitchen, and his fire department family gathered in a meeting room.
One volunteer firefighter, who said he has been with the Charlotte department for 40 years, spoke through tears of Hosette, but he asked that he not be identified by name.
"Only two names should be mentioned right now, and mine's not one of them," he said.
The veteran volunteer said Hosette followed his maternal grandfather into the local fire service. He said Hosette grew up in nearby Camanche, and his grandfather, Richard "Dick" Grimm, served as chief in Charlotte for 35 years.
"As much as we're hurting, I know Clinton's hurting, too," he said. "[Hosette] was like any fireman, giving his knowledge, time, resources — now his life. We've got fire departments calling from everywhere. And we've got another young man fighting for his life."
The volunteer firefighter said many regarded Cain's surviving the explosion "a miracle." He described a multitude of injuries, including broken bones, lacerations and a punctured lung; likely the result of broken ribs. Cain underwent surgery on Saturday, he said.
The volunteer has heard accounts, he said, of Cain having fallen from a considerable height after being thrown from the silo where the explosion occurred. Cain's father, Kevin Cain, is fire chief in Goose Lake, which is just east of Charlotte.
The volunteer choked back tears as he offered an explanation for how Cain's badly injured body was recovered from the debris in time to save him: "It's what we do when somebody goes in. We get 'em out."
But the tears returned as he took a call on his cell phone, which rang nearly non-stop as he spoke with a reporter.
"I'm sorry I haven't called you back," he said into the phone. "They're bringing the body back here pretty soon. There's going to be a procession. I'm sorry. I can't seem to talk."