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By Rachel Witten
“We have a burn victim — a fireman. He got trapped in the flames. Bring a stretcher and morphine!”
Those were the words of the emergency room doctor. Jim could still remember those words twelve weeks, two skin grafts and eight therapy sessions later. The excruciating burns he had received on most of his body when a fiery beam fell on him three months earlier had shaken him to the core.
Fire was the only thing Jim Lovetto was afraid of. As he stood, clothed in his firefighter’s uniform in front of the burning apartment building, he knew he had to conquer his fear and rescue the small child trapped inside.
I was a hero once, Jim thought. Am I going to let that slip away along with a kid’s life?
He knew the answer.
He ran forward into the blaze, struggling into the inner reaches of the building. He shoved away the fear, focusing entirely on his mission. The seconds ticked by like hours as he frantically searched for the lost young one. Finally, he spotted the boy through the haze of smoke.
“Hey! It’s going to be okay, but we have to hurry,” he shouted as he scooped up the boy. He saw the exit and ran toward it.
Outside, the other firemen became anxious as they fought to extinguish the raging fire. They mumbled their concerns.
“Do you think someone else should go in?”
“He’s been in there a while …”
But deep inside, perhaps through some ancient instinct, they knew he would succeed, valiant and at peace. A moment later, needless anxiety turned to joyful relief as Jim emerged from the apartment building with the child in his arms.
As the boy ran to his mother, who was weeping exuberant tears, all the firemen thought the same thing: “That’s why we do it.”
Rachel Witten is a resident of Eastview. She is 13.