How To Hug A Hero | A Response Testimony by MaryAnn McCampbell

How To Hug A HeroIt was a beautiful Sunday morning. I got my first Red Cross fire call. I was surprised because I wasn’t on-call, but they needed me and I responded. It’s what we do in the Red Cross. We respond when needed. It was my first fire call and I was a little nervous driving to the fire station to meet my DAT (Disaster Action Team) leader. I had mixed emotions. I was sad that a family had their lives turned around because of a fire, and I was excited to go to my first assignment.

We were responding because there was a family in need. My team leader briefed me on the disaster. He told me that we were going to a single house fire with a family of nine.

Wow, nine people were affected.

There was a 16-year-old teenager preparing for work that morning while everyone else in the household was sleeping. She heard a popping noise in the garage and went to find out the source of the noise. To her surprise she saw smoke coming from the electrical panel and called her father over the phone. Her dad told her to call 911. The 911 dispatcher instructed her to wake everyone and get them out of the house. She remained calm, and got everyone out of the home including her two-year-old niece.

The firefighters came and doused the flames that were inside the walls. According to fire officials, the fire started in the garage at the electric panel. Miraculously the fire only spread inside the walls of the attic and dining room.

This 16-year-old could have done nothing. She could have ignored what she heard and left for work and left her sleeping family — all eight of them — would have remained asleep. Smoke would have moved through the walls. No one in the home would have been alerted because there were no smoke detectors. The fire would have spread.

But the teenager did do something, she acted! Because she acted, her family is alive.

I had a chance to speak with this young lady. I was inside the Red Cross ERV, Emergency Response Vehicle. My team leader was speaking with her mother and getting some information so the Red Cross could provide the family with emergency services. She came inside the vehicle to get some water and to get out the heat.

She looked tired and sad.

I asked her if she was the 16-year-old that called 911. She said she was. I told her that she was a hero. She said to me — now with the biggest smile — that she felt like a hero. This girl, no — this young woman was the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen. She told me what had happened in her own words.

She wasn’t scared. She just did what was right. She told me how she wants to be a gynecologist when she grows up. This young lady is going places. She told me that she feels like telling everyone that she is a hero. I told her to do that. To be proud of that —that she saved her family. I encouraged her to tell everyone that her little two-year-old niece is playing outside because of her. I told her that in her life she will have some bad days; we all do. But when she has those bad days, I told her to recall this memory and it will help her every time. She will always be a hero. She asked me my name and gave me hers. I asked if I could give her a hug, and with a big smile she said “Yes!” Ahhh, it was a great hug from a hero!

Yes, today I met my hero. She is 16-years-old.

Click here to volunteer with the South Florida Region Red Cross.

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