Sometimes you see a picture, and you just want to find out more, right? For me, this is one of those pictures. Yes, there are four big guys in this picture, but just try to take your eyes off the little girl’s face. It’s face of a child who had been through a lot, but was comforted and cheered by four heroes.
The Chattanooga Fire Department posted this photo on social media, saying “On Monday, firefighters with Squad 19 based in Hixson (Green Shift) responded to a wreck, and one of the victims was this little girl. While getting her out of the car and taking care of her, she told them it was her birthday. She was then transported by Hamilton County EMS to Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.
On their next shift (Wednesday), they decided to go visit her, and they brought birthday presents, because they knew she wasn’t having a very good day on her birthday. She was very excited to see the firefighters again!”
The Fire Department went on to explain that this was not a staged, assigned public relations photo. The firefighters decided to do this on their own. I didn’t doubt that a bit, but I did want to know more about this visit.
Firefighter Chris Precise told me that the little girl “stayed calm at the scene of the accident.” He added, “Car accidents are not easy for anybody, and we were really touched by her strength while we were sitting, waiting for the ambulance to arrive.” He told me on that Monday, her birthday, the family was headed to Chuck E. Cheese. “That’s what really got us, ” he said. Family members tell me the little girl’s name is Taraji E’Vay Hyatte, and she turned six that very day.
The firefighters had Taraji on their minds for the next couple of days, so they checked on her when they next reported for work on Wednesday. At first, they thought she was home, so they planned to visit her there. A family member told them she was still in the hospital, so they changed their plans. They went shopping, buying her a stuffed plush pillow with stickers, and some coloring books.
They knocked on the door, and then came the moment they live for. The biggest smile you ever saw. She was watching cartoons with her grandparents in the hospital room, but now she was transfixed on her four visitors. “She was thrilled to get that bag from us,” Chris said. “She started pulling that tissue paper. She couldn’t wait to see what was inside.”
Firefighter Sean Mayfield told me, “We didn’t expect all the attention we got. We just wanted to make a little girl feel better.” Her relatives on Facebook tell me she’s still in the hospital, but is expected to recover.
The firefighters in the photo are also EMTs. They’re the first responders who get called to all sorts of incidents, large and small.
On a personal note, let me say this. The praise I am sharing in this story is in no way confined to Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is universal. Recently, while we were out of town, a family member required treatment from first responders. Thankfully, it did not turn out to be a big deal. I was so impressed with the EMTs. Their compassion, professionalism and patience were amazing. Their calm, reassuring manner lightened our load considerably. For us, fortunately, this was a rare occurrence. But these men and women utilize these talents all day, every day. I can’t thank them enough.
As Chris Precise told me, “We have one focus, and that’s patient care. We have feelings like everyone else, but when you’re on an accident scene, you can’t let your emotions get the best of you.” As a team, they’re a calming, healing influence.
Chris said that it’s not unusual for someone to stop by the fire hall to thank them for a rescue, or an emergency call they answered years ago. “That means a lot to us,” he said. “People come up to us in restaurants and say the nicest things. It makes us feel special.”
On Facebook, Mildred Walker wrote, “It’s great to know that there are still people in the world that have a caring heart for someone other than themselves. May God continues to bless those firefighters and their families.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.