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The Littlest Firefighter (A True Story)

The Way I See It

October 20, 2013
By John Sheda , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

This story takes place in 1981 in Phoenix, Arizona. It's a story about a little boy, Billy, recently diagnosed with terminal leukemia. The sadness jolted the entire family like a massive storm when the doctor grimly shared the situation. The parents, both only 26 years old, had their hearts filled with all the hurt one can only imagine, but also with a strong determination to be brave for Billy. Like all parents, they wanted to see Billy fulfill all his dreams but knew that was not going to happen anymore. Leukemia would see to that. "Billy," his mother asked him one day, "Did you ever think what you wanted to be when you grew up?"

"Mommy," Billy quickly responded, "I would love to be a fireman when I grow up."

The very next day, Billy's parents went down to their closest fire department in Phoenix and there they met Fireman Bob, who, after hearing the story about Billy and his Leukemia, would do his best to make Billy's dream come true. Fireman Bob was determined to make Billy's final wish come true. Billy's parents were hoping that maybe he could get a ride around the block in a fire truck or something like that but Fireman Bob thought, "We can do much better than that."

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John Sheda

It was going to take about a week to set everything up, but Fireman Bob promised Billy that come the next Wednesday, "We'll make you an honorary real Fireman for the entire day." He would arrive at the Fire Station at 7 am, get ready with the men and women, eat breakfast with them and go out on all the fire calls that day. The whole nine yards! In fact, the other firefighters all chipped in and had a real fire uniform made just for Billy, with a real fire hat-not a toy one, but one with the emblem of the Phoenix Fire Department on it.

When Wednesday came, everything was ready and Billy's dream came true. He was a real, honest-to-goodness, Phoenix Fire Fighter. He got to sit on the back of the truck, helped steer it back into the station one time and went out on three separate fire calls that day. Billy was in heaven. He rode in several different fire engines, a paramedics van and even the Fire Chief's car. And to top it off, the local news station heard about it and videotaped it for the local evening news.

This one day invigorated Billy so much that he actually lived six months longer than anyone thought, but finally one night his vital signs began to drop dramatically and Hospice was called in to help. Family members were called to the hospital. Billy's dad also called Fireman Bob who had become great friends with Billy since that wonderful Wednesday they spent together on the fire truck. Fireman Bob contacted the Fire Chief to see if several other firefighters in uniform could visit Billy. "We can do better than that," the Fire Chief responded. Within five minutes, the sirens were screaming and the lights of fire trucks were flashing and a special announcement that there was no fire. When one of the trucks arrived at the hospital, the ladder was extended up the outside of the hospital to the third story window of Billy's room. With the window opened, five Fire Fighters entered Billy's room. With the permission of his parents, they all came over and gave Billy huge hugs, high fives and even kisses. Billy looked up at the Fire Chief and asked, "Am I really a Fireman?" The Fire Chief with tears flowing from his eyes, "You bet Billy. You are a member of the Phoenix Fire Department."

Later that night, Billy quietly passed away. Although the names have been changed, "Billy" was the first recipient of an organization called "The Make-A-Wish Foundation," a foundation that fulfills the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. And with this story--The Way I See It column wishes to thank ALL OF THE FIRE FIGHTERS FOR YOUR DEDICATION, HARD WORK AND WILLINGNESS TO GO INTO HARM'S WAY TO PROTECT US. KUDOS TO ALL OF YOU. Let me know what you think at: or call me at 319-327-4640.

The answers to last weeks quiz are...Susie; Dover, Honolulu, Okla. City, Indianapolis; a castrated rooster; all the letters in the alphabet were used in that sentence; a coffin; you figure out the 7 continents and 8 planets; a flapdoodle is just pure nonsense; and I have no idea what a group of bison is called, but it's not a keg.

Tons of emails and phone calls came in (har, har) but no one got them all right. But be blest anyway today.



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