Opening day of Deer season 2009… It was a unusually warm and sunny day for November. I had actually overslept and missed the sunrise in my new stand. However I made the best of it and decided to still go out and give the day a try. While crossing the field to my new stand I came across a decent Deer and took the shot. With my game tagged, dressed and packaged I now unexpectedly had the entire beautiful day ahead of me.
Taking a little R&R just seemed the thing to do. Remote in hand and in my PJ’s mid day. How I would I ever have known my life was about to forever change! A blast like no other…. Was it a “sonic boom”? Wait my living room window just broke and the pictures fell from the fireplace mantle. As I raced to the door I seen to my surprise a large plume of fire & debris from my neighbors home. Being a Fireman I don’t even remember thinking about it, I just reacted. Racing to the neighbors and seeing to my complete horror the home in pieces and on fire.
I activated 911 but the dispatcher kept doubting me that the home had actually exploded. Finally I told her to “get me the f@$%#!&% fire dept now”! Within seconds a car raced to the road where I stood in shock. My other neighbor asked what happened. I couldn’t answer and then it hit me… Young Amber & most likely baby Simon were in fact home as her car was in the driveway. In a fraction of seconds I had given instruction to the neighbor to shut off the gas and electric I was going in. The next few minutes were that of a horror movie. Everything was in slow motion, almost timeless. In my pj’s and flip flops I made my way into what used to be a home.
Now burning intensely from the west side by a propane fed fire. I made my way deep into the rubble screaming for Amber and frantically throwing the debris to the side. I could make it no further in and that’s when I heard it… The screams of young baby Simon just feet away from me in the burning rubble. Again a frantic attempt to get to where I heard the screams… The fire getting too hot I had to retreat. The screams stopped in a just a few more seconds.
As fire companies arrived I pulled the first line and was of course giving instruction. Eventually having to be pulled away by the Sheriff’s dept. I just sat in the road in complete shock. A few days later I attended the funeral services. I remember a reading of Amber’s personal notes from her Sunday school class being read. It was almost as if she were reading it to me. I was told to make something good of this tragedy. The next 2 weeks I can not remember anything. Just a blur!
I couldn’t stop crying…. a grown man who just wept! Then I woke with the Sunrise one morning soon after. A blueprint of what I had to do etched into my brain! No way to describe this awakening as I call it. Not a dream but something bigger and unexplained in words. I knew exactly what I had to do! Within 4 weeks I had sold everything, packed my car and left my home. I returned to a place of my childhood and within just 90 more days was enrolled in college for my second career. EMT or bust!
I was never ever going to feel as helpless as I did that day in November. Now that years have passed I still every day struggle with depression & I’m sure some sort of PTSD. So so so many times I have been close to ending my life! Then I stop and think about the events that occurred and wonder just what my purpose in this world is. Then I remember the lives that my hands have saved since that day.
I remember that because of the tragedy I am now able to help others and give them a second chance. I remember the 14 y/o boy who was being swept down river by flash flood waters until I dove in and retrieved him. I remember the roadside Asthma attack turned full arrest. Performing CPR for what seemed and eternity and getting my patient back neurologically intact. Then my hurt is ok with me as I know that for some divine reason I was to live this second life. In loving memory of Amber & Simon Smith.
– Story written by Cary Stout, FF/EMT from Missouri.