“Rescue Squad 17, we have four people trapped on the second floor of an apartment fire in the 2500 block of Southern Avenue (S.E. Washington, D.C.),” the emergency dispatcher announced. Squad 17 responding, I replied.
In a burst of adrenaline, I suited up, grabbed my gear and with sirens blaring, I headed for the call. I was driving Engine 17 that day, February 1, 1993. Row houses streamed by in a blur as I maneuvered Engine 17 around parked cars, traffic and pedestrians; in our business, time means lives. I pressed on. Yet, without warning, as I headed across an intersection, a drunk driver slammed into the side of the fire truck with such force that my apparatus spun around, struck a tree and burst into flames. Upon impact, I was knocked unconscious. I lied slumped over the steering wheel while Engine 17 became engulfed in flames. Due to the quick thinking of two bystanders, they managed to pull me from the wreckage and carry me to a safe distance; seconds later, the Engine exploded with a blast that literally shook the neighborhood.