From the book Man in the Red Bandana by Tom Rinaldi: They came to the towers that morning with their birthmarks and degress, allegiances and scars, student loans and night cravings. They cam with their loves cherished and lost, fights joined and surrendered, bills paid and put off. They came from different paths, took different chances, practiced different faiths, savored different meals. They came with deals made, lines drawn, orders given, cheers shouted, ideas grapsed, fears hidden, reports filed, children birthed, time served, hopes lost, dreams fulfilled. Breaths taken. Breath held.
“I actually experienced – and somehow lived through – backdraft,” said second generation Minneapolis firefighter Jake LaFerriere.
It was a beautiful summer day eight years ago when Jake and his colleagues at Rescue 9 went out on a call to an apartment building that was on fire.
“There was a lot of smoke, but no fire. For some reason, I threw my mask on, which ended up saving my life. My Captain and I walked up the stairs and continued to just see and feel smoke. I hit a wall and the fire shot out, when it mixed with oxygen, it exploded Backdraft style. I was blown 11 feet in one direction, my captain in the other.”
Jake’s injuries in 2010 brought him to his knees. His lifelong dream to have a career as a firefighter was compromised. He had to sort out emotions and make choices one day at a time. When he realized he could make a difference in the lives of other patients going through the same painful burn trauma and transitions, he donned a humble Super Hero cape. He surrounded himself with people who gave him the support he needed and let his faith and heart guide his every step.
Last Thursday we returned to HCMC Burn Center for the annual Christmas Blessing. AT the beginning of the week we identify the patients in need, gather their “wish lists” and schedule elves to shop for each patient and their family. When you see what simple things people “want” and immediately understand there is a reason for the season.