He and Jenne, who graduated from Harvard University in 2010 and will start Yale Law School in September, planned to go to church, but things changed after Ayers' wife, Annette, got called into work at a West Philly Citizens Bank branch, where she is a banking officer.
Ayers, 60, who is Baptist, experienced devastating losses in a recent eight-day time span - from the April 9 deaths of two firefighters after a five-alarm blaze erupted in a vacant Kensington warehouse to the April 15 and 16 deaths of six people in two house fires. He says he can't recall another time in the past 30 years when this many people died from fires in the city in a week's time. "It's really a hard time," he says.
Ayers on Saturday attended the funeral of a relative who passed away - Jim Gilmore, the brother-in-law of his sister's husband, who was 68 and died of an illness.
Ayers recalled how when he was 19 or 20, he used to fix up cars with Jim, Bernard Jenkins (his sister's husband) and Bernard's brother Isaiah in a supermarket parking lot near 27th and Poplar streets.
Ayers had a 1969 avocado-green Dodge Super Bee - a muscle car that drove "fast, street- fast," he says, finishing his blueberry pancakes with turkey sausage ("scrumptious").
Having overheard part of our conversation, our waiter, a friendly young man, asks Ayers: "Are you a fireman?"
After some prodding, Ayers reveals he's the commissioner. "Oh, my God!" the waiter says, his eyes growing wider.
- Julie Shaw