For years we have driven by our local firehouse and read the sandwich board advertising a “free” Sunday Pancake Breakfast. My husband would always say, “That would be so much fun…we should go.” But, honestly, its never been a draw for me and, suffice it to say, we’ve never gone.
Here on Martha’s Vineyard and in my home-village of Larchmont, NY I know how dedicated and essential our firefighters are, and how lucky we are to have them “on the ready.” But do I have to go to a pancake breakfast to show my support? Spending a Sunday morning listening to the wild screams from toddlers in the magic jumping castle and watching six-year-olds run around with maple syrup dripping from their fingers is not on my short list. And, since my boys graduated from elementary school over a decade ago – visiting the fire chief, climbing in the shiny fire truck and ringing the bell are no longer high on my list.
But this week – the pancake breakfast at our local firehouse was “set in stone” on our calendar. Even more amazingly, our whole family was psyched to go. So, at 8:45 am this past Sunday morning, my husband announced he did not want to be late and was leaving…ready or not. Not one of us questioned his request for a prompt departure and we obediently rushed to join him in the car as he sat impatiently in the passenger seat. He was on a mission–this was the morning he was going to thank the firefighters who saved his life.
When we arrived at the station, the firefighters were demonstrating their new hydraulic lift —they had just bought it before the summer. One very fit fireman was describing how a few weeks ago this machine had lifted a garbage truck off a biker in minutes so he could be pulled out. What?? Did he just say they bought this lift a few months ago – they didn’t have it before? I ran over to the firefighter holding the “mic” – interrupted him mid-sentence and said, “You’re talking about my husband, thank you so much, he’s over there, you saved him, you lifted the truck off him and saved him.” The firefighter looked at me, smiled and finished his planned description of how they extract a body from a car – how they cut seatbelts to release passengers– how they remove glass from a dashboard – and after 15 minutes of watching his team disassemble a Chevy – we spoke.
My husband gratefully thanked him for extracting him from under the garbage truck a month ago and the firefighter raised his brows bringing my bionic Bill into his focus. We watched his eyes scan Bill in amazement and thus began the unfolding of a shared experience from different perspectives that would finally be pieced together as the actual story of what happened the day of the accident. One by one the firefighters and EMTs began to gather around my husband and share their experiences and observations of how they extracted him from under the truck.
We had been trying to piece together the accident over these past weeks and it was amazing to hear the details from these volunteers. Within moments it became ever clearer how incredibly lucky Bill had been. So lucky he had his arm “impaled on the truck” protecting him from sliding fully under. So lucky, that they were able to remove his arm from the “pin” of the truck without piercing an artery. So lucky that Bill had put his hands up (taken them off the handle bars of his bike) to stop himself when the truck had turned in front of him on the bike path – so lucky. So fortunate that despite the 20 broken bone fragments in his face, he was wearing a helmet – his brain clear enough to tell them my phone number, clear enough to talk to the EMTs during the entire process despite a serious concussion that had knocked him out minutes before they arrived.
Who would have saved my poor Bill from that evil garbage truck were it not for those skilled volunteer firefighters and EMTs? I shoved all the cash from my wallet into the donation basket thinking – that’s not enough. Tears in the eyes of the EMT Kate as she told Bill how brave he had been. How Bill had given her my phone number and told her to call me. Pride in her eyes as she told Bill how stoic and steady he was during the entire process of untangling his broken right arm and working his left “de-gloved” arm off the pin of the truck. We all shed a tear – “so lucky.”
Have you ever thought about how contextual luck is? I mean Bill is on a snail’s pace slow heal from his accident, broken bones, plates in arms and face, bruises and headaches. Nonetheless, when “You’re so lucky, incredibly lucky” was stated by each firefighter — we all smiled and looked at Bill’s scars and nodded, “Man are we fortunate.”