Firefighters have two families, the one that they run into burning buildings with and the one that waits for them at home. As Dayton Youth Radio contributors work on these stories, they sometimes interview their parents, and this is the center of Lillian Ferguson’s story; a rainy night, and a bad accident that her father responded to.
I never really worried about my dad when I was little. Everyone thought I was so cool with my dad being a firefighter. He sees dead people every day, sees people die, and helps people who think they are at the end of their lives. But sometimes it becomes too much.
When I was ten, I was at my grandma's house, and it was a weekend. I remember the phone ringing, back when it made a loud, annoying ring. My mom had answered it. I could see her from where I was sitting, and she began crying, and saying “What? What?” over and over. I remember her telling us through crying and hysteria, “Your dad was hit by a car,”
I asked my dad what he remembered about that night.
"I was struck by a Ford F-150 pick-up truck," he says. "Of course I had a concussion, lacerated my liver, herniated disk in my spine."
My dad was on another run, a car crash that had happened somewhere in the middle of a street, while it was sleeting and hailing, making it hard for everyone to see. He had been hit by an old man who was driving a truck. My dad was flipped over the hood and flew back a few yards. The man said that it wasn’t intentional, and we didn’t press charges, but that still didn’t stop me from hating the man that almost killed my father.
"I was extremely fortunate," my dad says. "I could have gone under instead of over the hood...I could have gone under the vehicle. I don't really remember a whole lot until I woke up, but mostly I remember the big things like when you guys came to see me at the hospital, came into the room.
My mind had kind of pushed away the hospital visits because I hated seeing my dad all hooked up. I remembered crying, and not wanting to look at the welts and bruises on his face. It was scary to see him like that, because I never really understood how dangerous his job was.
I asked my if, because of getting hit by the car, he feels afraid sometimes.
"No not afraid," he says. "I dwelled on it a little bit, because of the impact it would have had on you and mom and your brother and sister. It does make me more cautious. It's more real to me now because of what I had gone through."
I then asked him what fuels his passion for his job and makes him keep going back.
"I enjoy my job a lot, because you don't want people to have their worst day everyday. But there's always somebody who has a need and needs help in my line of work, and that's my job. I do enjoy it, it's not Monday through Friday 9 to 5. It's on-24, off-48, and it's different if you have a family or people you share your life with in your home, it's a different experience for them too.
The day he was hit, and all those days afterwards, watching my dad gain back strength, taught me a lesson. Firefighters truly are people we should be more thankful for, and I’m proud to call my dad a first responder. He is always there to help people. He fights for people’s lives and puts his own at risk while he’s at it. It's hard to realize it even as the daughter of a firefighter.
Every night my dad works, my family prays that he’s safe and sound. Sometimes, on rare occasions, I even get anxious and scared when the phone rings during my dads work hours. I’m still learning to heal from that experience, but one thing is clear throughout that entire experience- stories like his never get told, and I think they should.
Lillian Ferguson at Stivers School for the Arts. Special thanks Leslie Rogers and Eva Maksutis of the Creative Writing Magnet. Learn more at the school's website: http://www.stivers.org/ Support for Dayton Youth Radio comes from the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.