I followed Fred across the lawn to the townhouse building next to ours. Smoke billowed out the front door of an upstairs unit. Someone was calling 911 while others stood frozen.
A man and woman stayed near the burning building; they looked terrified. “Is anyone still in there?” Fred asked them. When they didn’t answer, he put both hands on the man’s shoulders and used his policeman’s voice to ask the question again.
“My son,” he answered.
“The fire’s too big. We can’t get in,” a neighbour said.
Fred went around the building to where the bedroom windows were and heard screaming from inside. “Get the big ladder,” Fred told Michael, the resident caretaker.
“It’s locked and I don’t have the key.”
Fred took me aside. “Pray,” he said, “and go guide the fire truck in.”
A few minutes later the fire truck arrived. “A boy’s still in there,” I hollered. “Bring a ladder.”
Before the firefighters got to the house, the boy was brought to them. His face was blackened and wet with tears. “He’s breathing,” someone said.
I found Fred not far away. “What happened?” I asked.
“I got him out,” Fred replied. I hugged and hugged him.
The firefighters gathered their equipment. I could see flames now and more smoke poured out of the building.
“Let’s go home,” Fred said. “You don’t want to breathe in this stuff.”
A while later a policeman knocked on our door. He wanted to investigate what happened. After getting the details, he offered Fred medical assistance. “I’m fine,” Fred said.
“Your neighbours are calling you a hero,” the R.C.M.P. officer said.
Fred shrugged it off. “I used to be a member. I’ve been in situations like this before.”
Later that evening, two firemen also came to the door and so did the neighbour who tried three times to get through the fire to the boy. They all thanked Fred for what he did.
“I heard Demetri cry out from his room and I had to do something,” Fred told me when we were alone. Tears clouded his eyes. “No one knew what to do, so I took charge. I told Michael to get bolt cutters. We got the ladder and I went up it not knowing what I would find. I took the screen off the window and saw an orange glow and the room filled with smoke. Demetri was on his bed whimpering. He came to me as soon as I called him. He took my arm and I carried him down.”
The emergency vehicles left sometime after midnight. “My hero,” I said to the man who is rarely in the limelight.
The next morning I asked Fred how he slept.
“Not great. I kept having flashbacks of fires I attended when I was working for the R.C.M.P.,” he said. “It opened up boxes I haven’t looked in for a long time.”
“What did you remember?”
He told me about the times people died. He described horrific sights and smells. I heard the anguish that had been locked away for decades.
And so did God. God knew how badly Fred had wanted to help those people. Finally he was given the opportunity to save someone’s child.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)