The following is a true story.
All the names have been changed at the request of the guilty.
Bill had not been feeling up to snuff.
Plagued by one of the worst cases of heartburn he had ever experienced, Bill had tried just about any and every over-the-counter remedy the pharmaceutical industry could concoct over several days.
Nothing worked and his heartburn just got worse.
By last Thursday the general feeling of being fundamentally uncomfortable was driving Bill to despair.
Friday morning he decided to try another remedy: two bottles of cold chocolate milk to douse the fire.
The video from the store shows a typically energetic Bill slouching over the counter while downing his milk.
The milk, chocolate or not, did not help and by early afternoon Bill understood he was in trouble.
“I knew I had to get to the fire station,” he said, alluding to the home of one of the county’s volunteer fire departments.
As he left his job, Bill was about 15 minutes away from the nearest fire station and had largely lost the use of his arms.
With his leg serving as “hands-on-the-wheel” Bill set off.
Bill finally reached the station and a member of the department, we’ll call him Todd, happened to be in the station bay.
Let us underscore how fortunate Bill was; Todd said he was about five minutes away from leaving.
“It just wasn’t his day to go, I guess,” Todd said. “Five minutes later, (Bill) would have been in real trouble.”
Bill had driven to the station in an SUV-type vehicle and there was little Todd could do to help while Bill was slumped in the front seat.
He had to get Bill, who is a bit heavier, on the ground and in shade.
Todd knew two members of the department lived just up the road, so in quick order Todd called 9-1-1, called his fellow members to assist and managed to get Bill inside the station and on the ground.
By this point, Todd said, Bill was not looking too perky, turning an awful shade of blue, his pulse racing, sweating.
Bill seemed to be entering full cardiac arrest.
Todd was soon joined by Rod and Julie from up the road and the three put Bill on oxygen, implemented a few chest compressions and did what they had been trained to do in case of heart issues.
By the time an ambulance arrived Bill’s blood pressure and pulse were not only normal, but absurdly so, reflective of an individual in relative health.
On Monday afternoon, after a minor heart procedure, Bill was in the station bay again, this time standing and smiling and thanking Todd, Julie and Rod for saving his life.
“I was lucky,” Bill said.
But, when offered the opportunity to tell their story, the four declined to have specifics spilled in the newspaper.
Any limelight missed the point; this was four people life happened to bring together in a way none of them will ever forget.
“For us, the fact that he is standing here thanking us is all we could ask for,” said Rod.
Bill added, “They were doing their job.”
Indeed they were, but nonetheless it is a wonder there remain folks in this world, in this community, around the corner, who are willing to take on those jobs.
Who willingly, or maybe not so willingly but obligingly, submit to the hundreds of hours of training required to be a firefighter who may enter a home ablaze.
Who spend what ought to be off hours, recreational time, training in sometimes broiling conditions wearing fire suits that weigh upward of 50-60 pounds.
Who will answer the beeper, the phone call, the text and respond with action without regard to time of day or night or what they might be doing at the time.
Who, has happened in October, become the town criers at the town center for each community after a natural disaster, providing hope along with water, ice, fuel, food and whatever else can be scrounged.
And who do all this while earning a big fat zero on the bottom of the paycheck, who complete these tasks, assume these potentially life-and-death responsibilities, without compensation beyond a hearty “job well done” here and there.
That is the sort of courage and selflessness the world could use a whole lot more of these days, a kind of man-looking-out-for-man that too often seems missing, or at least in woefully short supply.
So, Todd, Julie and Rod, having listened I was compelled to tell your story and to keep it anonymous if only because the passion driving your actions secures meaning far beyond names.
Just ask Bill.