Five years ago, at the age of 42, I was traveling down the highway, when suddenly right in front of me coming in the other direction was a jeep that was literally bouncing down the road on its side. Flipping at least five times before it came to a rest. Without a second’s hesitation I pulled my car over and ran across three lanes of highway to get to the person inside.
The young 16 year old girl was incredibly lucky. I was able to help her out of the car through the side window, and although she left by ambulance to get checked out, I learned later from her parents that she had not a scratch on her, and even played in her softball game the following day.
But driving away from that accident I couldn’t help but play worst case scenarios through my mind. What if she was trapped? What if she was hurt? What if the car started on fire. I had no training for any of those situations. I would have stood helplessly by had I been met with any of that.
That’s when I decided to become a firefighter.
The first night, I remember sitting in the parking lot, with white knuckles, gripping the steering wheel trying to convince myself to just drive away. Instead, I got out of the car and walked into the building. I was never so scared or nervous in my life.
But things moved quickly from there. I got to know the guys relatively easily and my training started shortly thereafter. I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn. How to use the airpacks, how to search for and rescue a victim, raise ladders, pull hose, work the fire hydrants, operate the vehicle extrication tools.
I remember at first thinking everything is so heavy!
But I persisted, I worked hard to keep up with the guys, studied for hours upon hours, and about 18 months later I became a Level 2 Certified Firefighter in my state. The first woman ever in this particular department to reach that level of training. I even had the opportunity to drive the trucks a few times.
This is the accomplishment I am bragging about today, because as part of my new foundation its time to give at least as much, if not more, attention to my strengths than my shortcomings. Oh and did I mention I got the highest grades in my class?