When Brandon Stoker was
ready to graduate from the paramedic program, he was elated, sad and
Not only had he grown up with the men his father had served with
at Station 51, he had been part of Station 51’s A-shift crew under
his “Uncle Johnny” since his graduation from the Fire Academy.
He was elated that he was going to be paramedic, a job he had learned
to love watching John Gage and Roy DeSoto. He was sad that he was going
to have to leave the station he loved working at because there wasn’t
an opening there. He was frightened because he wasn’t sure
that he would ever find the close family feeling that had been a
the Station 51 A-Shift since the beginning. The original A-Shift
crew had that same feeling at all three stations, but Brandon knew
it was not the norm in the department.
Brandon had been pleased when Peter Swanson had been promoted to Engineer
and the firefighter opening had been offered to him. He had secretly
wished that either Jim Standish or Bob Carden would have wanted to
try for a different position so that a paramedic position would open
at 51s, but they were both content for the time being and Brandon would
have to be assigned to another station.
When Johnny called him into the office to give him his new assignment,
Brandon started debating with himself as to whether he really wanted
to make the change.
Johnny looked up when he heard the knock on his door knowing it would
be Brandon. “Come on in, Brandon. Please have a seat. Johnny
saw the nervousness on Brandon’s face and knew what feelings
Brandon was having right now. He had similar feelings when the paramedic
program first started. “I have your assignment as a paramedic.”
“Where will I be assigned?”
Johnny smiled. He knew that Brandon thought it was going to be hard
to make the change, but he also knew that Brandon’s assignment
was going to make that change an easy one.
“You will be replacing a paramedic who was just promoted to
engineer. Kent Williamson on Station 14’s A-shift just accepted
an engineer position at 110’s.” Johnny watched as the news
slowly sunk in.
“You mean I get to work with Uncle Roy?”
“Yep, they wanted you to learn from the best and that would
be Captain DeSoto. Headquarters didn’t hesitate when the opening
came over there to offer it to you first. If you accept it, you will
start next shift.”
“Yes, I want the position. I am going to miss working here with
you, but the next best place is over there since I know they won’t
assign me to my dad’s station. Thanks Uncle Johnny.” Brandon
jumped up and ran out into the bay whooping and hollering.
Johnny laughed at the “kid” still evident in Brandon and
just ignored his slip in procedures by calling him Uncle Johnny instead
of Captain. He picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number.
“Station 14, Captain DeSoto speaking.”
“Hey, Pally. How are things going there?”
“Hey, Junior. It’s been a quiet shift. I hope I didn’t
just jinx it. How are things with you?”
“Well, I hope I don’t jinx it either, but it has been
quiet around here as far as calls are concerned. But I just let Brandon
know that he is being assigned to your station.”
“How did he take it?”
Instead of answering, Johnny held out the phone so Roy could hear
Brandon’s excited yells ~I’m going to Station 14. I get
to work with Uncle Roy.~ in the background. “Can you hear that?”
“Yes I can. Guess he’s just a little excited, huh?”
“Yep. But you are getting one very fine firefighter. I am sure
he will be a great paramedic. I don’t want to lose anymore of
my crew, but I kind of wish he could be stationed here.”
“I know. But he will be close enough to sub at your station
once in awhile. At least if I have to lose Kent, I am getting a good
replacement for him.”
Just then the klaxons sounded sending both stations to a large warehouse
fire. Johnny was the first to hang up. “See you shortly, Roy.”
“Yeah, hope we can get it contained—sounds like a lot
of power being called out.” Roy hung up just as he heard the
click on the other end of the line.
Johnny, Roy and Craig Brice and been selected by headquarters to attend
the annual paramedic conference in Minnesota. Since Los Angeles was
one of the first programs in the country, the conference was honoring
the program. What the three Captains/Paramedics didn’t know was
that they were to be honored, too, as some of the very first paramedics.
During the week they were there, Johnny took the opportunity during
one of his free afternoons to meet with the Wewoka, Oklahoma, paramedics
to see how the Seminole Indian Reservation program was going. He was
pleased that not only was it going strong, there were several young
people who were joining the fire departments and wanting to become
paramedics not only in Wewoka, but other towns and cities around them
It was the last night of the conference and Roy, Johnny and Brice
were seated at the head table. Johnny had been out voted by the other
two and was going to accept the plaque for the LA County Fire Department.
He was getting nervous and just wanted the whole thing over with. He
knew it was time when the Chairman of the event took his spot at the
podium. As he started to talk about the LA program, Johnny started
to tune him out. But something made him keep one ear listening to what
was being said. He was glad he did when plaques were presented not
only to the LA County Fire Department, but also to each of the three
men who were not only Captains, but had kept their paramedic licenses
and were practicing paramedics as well. It was three stunned men who
blushed at the standing ovation they received for their part in helping
to make the paramedic program across the country a huge success.
Roy, Johnny and Craig had discussed their honors as the plane took
off. They all felt they didn’t deserve it, but had accepted the
honor. They were all glad to be headed home. It had been a good conference
but they all missed their wives and children.
Craig decided to read a book while Roy took a nap. Johnny was people
watching. About an hour after the plane had taken off, he noticed four
men who had been getting increasingly more nervous as the flight continued.
What struck him as odd was that it wasn’t nervousness about flying—they
seemed to be looking for something or someone. Just as he was about
to mention it to one of the stewardesses, they seemed to get a signal
of some sort and jumped to their feet, flashing guns they had somehow
smuggled on. From the back there was a shout about the plane being
hijacked and everyone needing to stay in their seats.
By this time Roy was awake and Craig had put his book down. Johnny
watched as one of the men grabbed a stewardess to use as a shield.
Johnny figured that they were going to use threats against her to keep
the crew and passengers in line. The three men quietly tried to come
up with some options of getting out of the situation but could not
come up with any solutions that wouldn’t risk the life of someone
The two in the back moved all the women and children to the front
and all the men to the middle of the plane. Johnny figured they were
going to use the women and children to make sure the men didn’t
try anything. When the men were all seated, two of the other four men
came to watch the men. The two who seemed to be giving the orders went
to the front. After picking up the phone and calling the cockpit, the
pilots opened the door letting the two men inside.
Johnny and Roy looked at each other. It really didn’t look good.
They both knew that something really bad was going to happen. Roy could
tell when the plane went below radar level and turned off course. He
realized they were headed somewhere that no one on the ground would
think to look for them. Looking at Johnny, Roy knew that he had reached
the same conclusion.
It was then that two of the men behind them decided to play hero and
tried to jump the two men holding guns on them. There was a scuffle
that brought one of the two men from the front to see what was going
on. The three hijackers started shooting and men started falling. When
the shooting stopped, the three men were still in control and four
men had been shot. Johnny, Roy, and Craig wanted to help, but didn’t
want to get anyone else hurt. So when one of the two men from the cockpit
came out to find out what was going on, Roy asked if the three of them
could check those who had been injured. He explained they were paramedics
and just wanted to treat the injured. He said he was asking instead
of just jumping up and presenting an appearance of a threat. They were
given permission and started bandaging the men’s wounds.
The hijacker in charge realized that the three men posed no threat
and granted them permission to treat the injured. He had just started
back to the cockpit when shots were heard from the cockpit. He took
off running and the others trained their guns on the passengers.
A minute later the man from the cockpit returned to the back and approached
Johnny and Roy who had just finished doing what they could for the
injured. “Come with me. We need your help in the cockpit now.”
Johnny and Roy looked at each other, picked up their equipment and
supplies and preceded the hijacker to the cockpit leaving Craig to
handle the injured in the back. There they found that the pilot and
co-pilot had tried to overtake the single hijacker he seemed to be
more interested in what was happening in the back. He had shot them
both and now no one was piloting the plane—it was on automatic
pilot. The hijackers wanted Johnny and Roy to do something to fix the
pilot and co-pilot so they could fly the plane. But what Johnny and
Roy found when they checked them was that both the pilot and co-pilot
were dead. Now they both knew they were in real trouble. There was
no one on the plane who knew how to fly it.
The hijackers were now starting to panic. They didn’t know what
to do. In the confusion that followed, things happened so fast that
Johnny really wasn’t exactly sure of everything that transpired,
but when it was all over, three of the hijackers were either dead or
injured from shots fired by their own friends. The other three were
subdued by the male passengers and under guard in the back. Now they
had to figure out what they were going to do about flying and landing
the plane. Shots had been fired in the cockpit and in the back of the
plane. There was some structural damage in both places. Plus none of
them realized they were flying over the San Juan Mountains of Colorado—far
off their original flight path.
When things had calmed down, it was determined that Roy was the only
one that had any type of experience at all in the cockpit of any type
of an airplane. It didn’t mean anything that his experience was
in a small plane and that he only had about 14 hours of flying time;
he was the only one who even had any idea what to do. So reluctantly
he agreed to see what he could do and grabbed Johnny to be the co-pilot.
Johnny followed along not sure what he could do, but willing to do
anything he could to save the people on that plane. Craig started getting
the flight crew together to prepare for an emergency landing.
Roy slipped into the pilot’s seat and told Johnny to get into
the co-pilot’s seat. Then he got on the radio and tried to raise
the closest airport. It was then that both men realized they weren’t
going to be able to raise anyone. They took a good look at the damage
that had been done in the cockpit. Besides the radio, there were several
controls that had been destroyed. It was time to turn off the autopilot
and see how much control they had of the plane.
Roy asked Johnny to grab the wheel in front of him while Roy turned
off the autopilot control. He had hold of the other wheel with his
left hand. After receiving a look of support from Johnny, he reached
over and turned off the autopilot. The plane immediately dipped and
both men hung on with all their strength. They got the plane leveled
off and Roy started checking the control panel.
Johnny opened the door for the airline engineer when he knocked on
the door. “We’ve checked the plane and the hydraulic system
has a leak in it as well as the fuel line being cut. We are losing
fuel fast. It won’t be long and this thing will be as hard to
handle as a huge bus without power steering.”
“Hopefully we can get this thing down before it falls out of
the sky.” Roy knew he had his work cut out for him. “Go
get the passengers prepared for a crash landing.”
As the engineer left the cockpit, he turned to Roy, “And I’ll
tell them all to pray.”
Roy nodded and prayed himself as the engineer left. “Johnny,
I am going to start descending. We need to find a place large enough
to set this plane down and see if we can do it safely.”
“Ok.” Johnny knew that Roy needed some encouragement. “Roy,
we’ll make it through this.”
“I hope so, Junior. I hope so.”
Roy pulled back on the throttle and Johnny looked at the landscape.
It wasn’t long and Roy could tell they needed to land soon or
they would fall out of the sky like a rock.
Johnny noticed a large open area off to the right just as Roy felt
the plane dip a little. “Roy, is that area big enough over there
to try and set her down?”
“I think so, but right now we don’t have much choice.
We are losing both fuel and hydraulics fast and I don’t think
we will stay in the air much longer.” Roy picked up the intercom
to make sure the passengers and flight crew in the back were prepared
for a crash landing. Then he put down the landing gear and pulled back
on the throttle as both men sent up prayers that they would be able
to save the lives of the passengers and flight crew. Both were thankful
that the flight had been only half full. At least there were only 64
lives they had to worry about instead of over 120.
The next few minutes were very tense for both men. Roy turned the
plane towards the open area Johnny had seen at the same time he and
Johnny were pulling back on the wheels to lower the plane. When the
plane touched the ground Johnny grabbed the brakes and pulled with
all his might to stop the plane before it hit the mountain they were
headed for. The landing gear gave way and the plane went onto its belly
and slid over the rocks. Both men could hear the plane falling apart
as it kept sliding towards the mountain. The plane started slowing
down, but Roy knew that it wouldn’t totally stop before they
hit the mountain, so he tried to turn the plane to lessen the impact
when they did hit. He was able to turn it, but the plane still broke
Nicole and the Gage children were spending the day at the DeSoto home.
Nicole was having a hard time keeping the fact that Roy, Johnny and
Craig were on their way home a day early from Joanne. Roy had really
wanted to surprise her since it was her birthday and he had thought
he was going to have to be late in celebrating it with her.
The older kids were in school and the others had just gone down for
their morning naps. Both women had a bad feeling but couldn’t
quite figure it out, so neither one said anything to the other. They
both just prayed that their husbands were alright.
Joanne was in the kitchen getting them some iced tea while Nicole
was resting on the couch. Nicole turned on TV. She was not paying attention
to what was on as she thought about her conversation with Johnny the
night before. The airlines had allowed them to change their flight
arrangements to leave a day early without charging them anything. The
words “plane bound for LA from Oklahoma” caught her attention.
She sat up as the news commentator continued with a new bulletin that
had interrupted whatever show had been on. “At 8:30 a.m. this
morning United Flight 543 bound for Los Angeles from Oklahoma City
was hijacked. Contact was lost after the hijackers informed Amarillo,
Texas, flight control that they had taken over the plane. Just before
the plane disappeared from radar it had change flight path. No further
information is available at this time. We will provide updates as information
Nicole’s heart stopped. That was Johnny, Roy and Craig’s
plane. Joanne walked into the room just as Nicole picked up the phone
and dialed. Before Joanne could ask who she was calling, Nicole was
connected with Hank Stanley. She knew he would just be arriving home
after his shift.
“Hank, this is Nicole. Have you heard the news about the hijacked
plane?—Well, United Flight 543 was the flight Johnny, Roy and
Craig are on.—No, Johnny called me last night and they were able
to come home a day early. Roy and Craig wanted to surprise Joanne and
Suzette so I wasn’t supposed to say anything. The airlines put
them on the same flight a day early.”
Joanne sank into the closest chair as she heard what Nicole was saying
to Hank. Nicole hung up and turned to Joanne. “Remember those
feelings we had earlier? Well, now we know what they were all about.”
Joanne just nodded her head.
“I am really sorry I didn’t tell you about them coming
home early. It’s just that Roy wanted to surprise you for your
birthday. I wouldn’t have known, but I had to talk to Johnny
about one of the horses that is sick and he told me what to do until
he could come home today.” Nicole’s knees buckled and she
sank down on the couch and let the tears flow.
“Nicole, it’s alright. There was no reason for you to
tell me and spoil Roy’s surprise. We probably should call Suzette.
She needs to know that Craig was on that plane.” Joanne moved
over to the couch next to Nicole, put her arm around Nicole and let
the tears flow, too.
“Hank said he would check into whether or not they were really
on that plane and see what he could find out. Then he would call everyone
else including Suzette.” Nicole was growing numb. “He also
said that he would call us back when he found out anything.”
The iced tea Joanne had prepared was left on the coffee table untouched.
An hour later Hank and Emily Stanley and Mike and Beth Stoker arrived
at the DeSoto home. With a feeling of dread Joanne stepped aside and
let the four friends enter the house. Nicole was sitting on the couch
listening to the latest news report as the other came in and joined
“Now an update on United Flight 543 hijacked at 8:30 a.m. this
morning on the way from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles—replay of
the tape of the conversation between the Amarillo flight control and
flight 543 reveal shots were heard just before all radio contact was
lost. The flight path had been changed from Los Angeles to somewhere
northwest of Amarillo just before it was lost from radar. A search
area of a little over 600 square miles has been established including
the San Juan Mountains. No further details are available at this time.
We will provide updates as information becomes available.”
Mike sat next to Nicole and pulled her into his arms as the tears
started flowing again. Hank guided Joanne to the easy chair and sat
her down as reality started setting in. Emily went to answer the front
door and let in Marco, Rebecca, Chet and Kimberly. Emily, Rebecca,
Kimberly and Beth went upstairs to get the kids as they started to
wake up from their naps. Chet and Marco joined them and the six adults
took them outside to play. It was going to be a long day.
Roy regained consciousness and looked around him. At first he couldn’t
place where he was or remember how he got there. The moan from his
right reminded him that Johnny was with him and the ordeal they had
just been through came crashing back to his memory. It was Johnny’s
side of the plane that had hit the mountain and Roy had been sure that
Johnny was going to be killed instantly. When he heard the second moan,
Roy turned towards Johnny and found him regaining consciousness, too. “Johnny,
how do you feel?”
“That was sure some ride. I think I broke my arm and I probably
have a concussion, but other than that I think I’m alright. How
about you? Are you alright?” Johnny didn’t tell Roy about
the pain in his stomach or his ribs. Johnny figured that he probably
had some internal bleeding and at least two broken ribs, but he also
knew there was nothing Roy could do about it and was feeling bad enough
as it was. He wasn’t going to add to it.
“I think I have a concussion, too, as well as a few bruised
ribs. Can you get out? We should go check on the others.” Roy
knew that Johnny hadn’t told him everything, but he knew that
there wasn’t much he could do. He also knew that Johnny would
realize that Roy was not telling him everything either—Roy knew
his ribs were broken and he was pretty sure he was bleeding internally.
His stomach was already getting rigid. He figured Johnny was probably
bleeding internally and, from the way he was sitting, had some broken
ribs. Roy planned to keep an eye on Johnny. Roy was right—Johnny
did realize that Roy wasn’t telling him everything and he planned
to keep an eye on Roy.
The two men gently eased themselves out of their seats and climbed
out of the cockpit door. They found that the passenger cabin had broken
off the plane behind the cockpit and had broken apart. Johnny and Roy
made their way through the debris over to the large section that had
been the rear of the passenger cabin. They were thankful that it was
the back part as that was where most of the passengers had been seated.
They were also very thankful that the plane had not been full.
Roy and Johnny worked silently as they check over the other passengers.
Miraculously they had found all their equipment and the drug box in
tact. In fact they found everything they would need to take care of
the injuries they found until help arrived.
Roy was the one who found Craig Brice’s body. When the plane
had crashed, Craig was sitting near the aisle and had unbuckled to
help a mother and her little girl. He had not had time to buckle his
seatbelt again when the plane impacted with the mountain. He was tossed
about the cabin like a rag doll. Roy knew that he had died instantly
when his head had impacted with a sharp metal piece of the plane located
near his seat. Craig’s head had hit where the hard seat and the
metal came together. The impact was so hard Craig had broken his neck.
Roy bowed his head. When he had first met Craig Brice, he had a hard
time working with him. But over the years and with Johnny’s help,
Craig had become a close friend and Roy knew that he was going to miss
Craig’s quirky ways. Finding a blanket he covered Craig’s
body. Taking a deep breath, he pulled out his professionalism and turned
to help the mother and little girl Craig had given his life to save.
Dr. Brackett and Dixie had arrived at the DeSoto home
around 9:45 a.m. and had given both Joanne and Nicole sedatives to
calm them down.
Both women were resting in separate bedrooms. Hank was worried about
Suzette Brice, so Mike picked her up and brought her back to the
DeSoto home. Suzette had heard about the missing plane but didn’t
know her husband was on it. Mike had decided to wait until they got
to Roy’s to tell her. When they arrived, she knew something
was going on when she saw all the people there. Hank was the one
who broke the news to her and fifteen minutes later she, too, was
resting in one of the bedrooms after having received a sedative.
Mike and Hank went to the school to pick up Chris, Jenny, William,
Lisa, and Brandon. The kids only had a half-day of school but they
decided to pick them up early. The DeSoto house was full of people
waiting to hear about their loved ones and friends. That was how
the airline representatives found them two hours later. After Hank
opened the door he prayed that they had some news, and that it would
be good, for the worried group.
Johnny had finished bandaging the last of the passengers he was examining
and was slowly making his way over to see if Roy needed any help and
how he was doing. He had been watching Roy out of the corner of his
eye and had seen the grimaces of pain Roy thought he had kept hidden.
Of the 64 flight crew and passengers, there were 22 fatalities, 15
with either critical or serious injuries and 27 with minor injuries
like broken arms and legs and minor concussions. As Johnny got closer
to Roy he realized he had not seen Craig anywhere. “Hey Roy?
Have you seen Craig? I thought he’d be out here helping us.”
Roy knew that Craig and Johnny had become close friends and that Johnny
was not going to take the news of Craig’s death very well. Taking
a deep breath, Roy realized the best way was to come right out and
tell Johnny. “I’m sorry, Johnny, Craig didn’t make
it. He broke his neck and died instantly.” Seeing Johnny looking
over at the blanket covered line of bodies, he knew what Johnny wanted
to know. “The second one in, Johnny.”
As Johnny slowly made his way over to where Craig’s body lay,
Roy could tell he was hurting. If help didn’t come soon, there
would be 37 dead and Roy would lose two friends—one who was more
like his brother. He didn’t think about the fact that it could
be 38—he could die, too. ~Please, dear Lord, please let them
find us soon. I’ve already lost one friend. Please don’t
let me lose another. I don’t think I could go on without him.~
Johnny lowered himself down to where he sat near Craig’s body. “Goodbye,
Craig, my friend. You’re in a better place now. Nicole and I
will make sure Suzette and Cindy are taken care of. You will always
have a special place in my heart.” Johnny looked up at Roy and
said a prayer not realizing he was using the same words Roy had not
too long ago. ~Please, dear Lord, please let them find us soon. I’ve
already lost one friend. Please don’t let me lose another. I
don’t think I could go on without him.~ Johnny knew he was in
trouble. He was losing consciousness. His last thought was that Roy
wasn’t doing any better, but that didn’t stop his need
for Roy’s help. “Roy, I think I need help over here.”
Roy was halfway to Johnny when Johnny lost consciousness. He ran the
rest of the way to Johnny’s side. Laying Johnny out straight,
Roy gathered his vitals. He was dismayed to find Johnny’s stomach
rigid. He had nothing to treat Johnny with and that frustrated him.
~Please let them find us now~ As Roy desperately prayed a very welcome
sound reached his ears.
Mike knocked on the door to the room where Nicole was resting. He
heard crying from behind the door. Without waiting for a response from
Nicole, he opened the door, walked over to the bed, sat down and pulled
her into his arms. “Nicole, the United representatives are here.
Come on, let’s see what they have to say.” He grabbed some
Kleenex and handed them to her.
Wiping her eyes, Nicole nodded, hugged him and held his arm as they
headed to the living room. Hank was escorting Joanne in while Marco
was escorting Suzette. Just as the three women entered the room, one
of the representative’s beeper went off.
“Can I use your phone? That call is from the main office. Maybe
they are calling with an update for us.” He really hoped it was
an update and that it was good news.
“Sure, why don’t you use the one in the kitchen.” Joanne
was relieved when Hank showed him the way. No one said a word or made
a sound while they waited for him to return.
“Mrs. DeSoto, Mrs. Gage, Mrs. Brice—I’m Steven Jamieson
and this is Ben Johnson. We are here on behalf of United Airlines.
That call was from headquarters. The search teams were lucky. They
have already found the wreckage from the plane. It crashed in the San
Juan Mountains. There are survivors, but they haven’t been identified
yet. It will take the rescuers over an hour to get into where the plane
crashed. Two teams of paramedics with medical supplies to begin treatment
on the more critically injured parachuted in until the rescue teams
can get there and get a way cleared to get the people out. They are
going to call us here as soon as they know something.”
“All three of our husbands are paramedics and had a limited
amount of supplies with them. I’m sure that if they are able
they are treating the injured as much as they can.” Nicole smiled
at Mr. Jamieson and then turned to look at Joanne as both women felt
a chill go down their backs. They knew that for the moment Roy and
Johnny were alive, but injured. They also knew that Craig Brice was
dead. Neither woman knew how they knew since their feelings had not
gone beyond the four of them and their kids, but they knew. Suzette
knew it too. As the three women stood hugging each other, the others
just stood watching them not knowing what to do.
“Rescue efforts are underway. We should have an update by this
evening.” For some reason Mr. Jamieson felt an immediate special
bond with these people and prayed that their three loved ones would
return home alive and uninjured.
“I know I speak for Marco, Brandon, Chet and Mike as well as
myself—can you use our help in the rescue effort?” The
look on Hank’s face spoke volumes for all of them.
Glancing at the faces of the five men, Steve Jamieson knew what he
had to do. “Ben will stay here with the ladies as United’s
contact. I know we can use your help. Let me call and make the arrangements
and you four get ready to leave as soon as possible. United has a private
plane and as soon as I get the pilot there, we will take off. I am
shooting to take off in half an hour—at noon. Can you all be
ready?” Steve received affirmative responses and went to make
the phone calls while Hank, Marco, Brandon, Mike and Chet went to get
ready to leave. Dr. Brackett followed Mr. Jamieson into the kitchen.
He, Joe Early and Dixie would be joining the group that was going to
Colorado. They wanted to see about their friends for themselves.
“Aunt Nicole—William, and I will take Mayan and take care
of the animals for you.” Chris knew how close Johnny and Mayan
were becoming and that Johnny was teaching Mayan how to help with the
chores around the ranch. He also knew that Mayan was missing his father
terribly and this would really be very hard on him.
“Thanks, Chris that would be a big help.” Nicole gave
each of the two older boys a hug before turning to Mayan. ~Go with
Chris, William and Brandon to help do the chores. Show them where everything
is and what needs to be done.~
~Ok, Mama. I’ll show them. Come on, Chris.~ Mayan felt important
as he led the two boys to the Gage ranch “talking” a mile
a minute. He was as happy as his parents that all his “Aunts”, “Uncles” and “Cousins” had
learned sign language so they could talk to him.
Nicole smiled through her tears as she watched the three boys heading
across the field to their barn. She prayed that helping the older boys
would keep Mayan from thinking about his father and missing him for
a little while.
As Hank, Mike, Chet, Brandon, Marco, Kel, Joe and Dixie joined Mr.
Jamieson in the van to head to the airport to fly to Colorado and help
with the rescue effort, each one prayed their friends were okay.
When they arrived in Colorado, the three medical personnel headed
to the hospital to see how they could be most useful while the five
firemen went to the accident site to help with the rescue efforts.
The first paramedics on the scene were surprised to see that treatment
had already been given and the injured triaged. They were thankful,
though, as it had been five and a half hours since the accident. As
three paramedics went to work on the critical and seriously injured
patients, the fourth one went to double check those with “minor” injuries.
While he worked he asked what had happened.
Roy called out to the nearest paramedic. He had just finished giving
a report on Johnny’s condition when everything caught up with
him and he lost consciousness. The paramedic called for his partner.
When the assessment was done, it was determined that Roy and Johnny
would be the first ones sent to the hospital when help arrived—they
were the most critical of the survivors.
It was an hour and a half later when the group from LA arrived, just
45 minutes after the rescue teams. Hank, Mike, Brandon, Marco and Chet
were anxious to find out about their friends. However, they were put
to work as soon as they arrived and it was half an hour later when
Chet found out Craig’s fate as he helped carry his body to the
waiting National Guard helicopter. When he went to tell Hank about
Craig, Brandon, Mike and Marco were there, too. Mike had help carry
Roy and Marco had help carry Johnny to the helicopters that would take
them to the Denver hospital. Brandon had helped the paramedics work
on his “Uncle Johnny.” This was the first chance they had
to meet with their friends to talk about what was going on.
“Cap, Craig Brice died in the accident.” Chet was the
first one to report on their friends. Although Craig had been a pain
in the neck when they first met him, he had become a friend to all
“Roy was unconscious. The paramedic said he thought Roy had
some broken ribs, internal bleeding and a concussion. He said he doesn’t
know how Roy was able to help the others like he did.” Mike prayed
that they would only lose one friend because of this accident.
“The paramedic working on Johnny said that one of the other
passengers had mentioned that Johnny and Roy had treated all of them
before Johnny passed out. I guess Roy had just told the paramedic about
Johnny’s condition when he passed out. But the paramedic said
he didn’t know how Johnny kept going either. He has a broken
right arm, a concussion, some broken ribs and internal bleeding. For
the length of time they have been out here, Johnny and Roy should both
be dead right now, but their vital signs were steady even though they
were on the low side. It is a wait and see situation now.” Marco
had noticed that Johnny’s face was whiter than the sheet he was
lying on and that scared Marco. Brandon just nodded as Marco reported
“Did you guys know that Roy and Johnny were flying the plane
when it crashed?” Hank wanted to take their minds off the condition
of their friends who were on their way to the hospital in Denver.
“What? Why were they flying the plane?” Chet couldn’t
believe what he was hearing.
“They needed someone to fly when both the pilot and co-pilot
were killed by the hijackers. From what I can gather, the shooting
was an accident, but no one knew how to fly a plane. The only one with
any type of flying experience at all was Roy—even if it was only
a few hours in a small plane. Since everyone else seemed to be panicking,
Roy and Johnny did what they always do—tried to save lives. All
the passengers said if it hadn’t been for them, they would all
be dead right now. The engineer said that there were no hydraulics
and the fuel was pouring out fast because the fuel line was cut. If
Roy and Johnny hadn’t put the plane down in this open area, they
would have slammed straight into the mountain and no one would have
survived.” Hank was proud of his friends. His only hope was that
Johnny would live to tell about it and to keep Roy from the deep feelings
of guilt Hank knew he would have if anything happened to Johnny.
“I know that some of the passengers and flight crew I was helping
with all think of both of them as heroes. I just hope neither one of
them feels guilty because they couldn’t save everyone on board.” Mike
had heard about Johnny and Roy, too, and was proud to know the two
“I don’t think they will when they realize that they saved
more than half of the people on board and all would have died if they
hadn’t tried something.” Chet, too, knew how deeply both
men felt about their work and helping others. He tried to hide his
pride, but the others saw it.
“Let’s see what we can do to help finish up here and then
get to the Denver airport as soon as possible.’ Marco’s
pride ran as deep as the other three men’s did.
“I’m proud to call them my uncles. They are more like
uncles to me than my own uncles. I wouldn’t trade the things
they have taught me over the years for the world. Having served with
both of them has been a real honor.” Brandon was still a new
member of the “brotherhood” but he knew that he was privileged
to know these men. They would always hold a very special place in his
heart and this situation just made them that much more important to
Twenty minutes later the men were on their way in the last helicopter
to the Denver hospital.
Nicole had slipped out the back door of the DeSoto home. She knew
the kids were being cared for by Emily, Beth, Kimberly and Rebecca
and she needed to be alone for a little while. Walking back towards
the woods behind the two ranches, she headed towards the secluded spot
Johnny had found just before they were married and was now their private
spot. This was where she knew she would feel Johnny’s presence
and she needed that right now.
Reaching the woods, she veered to the right to the path that would
lead her through the edge of the woods to the little water fall and
stream that Johnny had dubbed “Nicole’s paradise”.
You had to know where it was to find it, thereby providing them with
a nice quiet place to get away from it all once in a while. She smiled
to herself as she thought about how many times they had asked someone
to take care of the kids so they could “go out” only to
slip off to this place.
The light breeze kept Nicole warm as she walked. Her thoughts drifted
to Johnny. As she pictured him in her mind, she felt his presence ahead
of her. Looking through the trees, she saw him just standing, but in
obvious pain. When his gaze met hers, she reached out her hand to guide
him to their place. At first it seemed as if he was going to turn and
walk away from her. But then he smiled through his pain and grasped
her hand. They walked hand in hand together to the waterfalls. The
laughter of their children the few times they had brought them here
rang through her ears. It was so peaceful to walk through the forest
with her hand in Johnny’s. She could feel his presence as if
he was really walking beside her.
When she reached the stream, Nicole was once again alone. She knew
that Johnny wasn’t there—he was in Colorado, but his presence
and the children’s laughter had been so real, she felt disappointed
that it wasn’t. Sitting in the little nook they had made, she
went through her mental gallery of pictorial memories of her life since
she had met Johnny—the other half of her heart.
Johnny drifted in and out of a dark forest. He thought a couple of
times that he had seen Nicole through the branches, but then he would
lose sight of her and drift into a deep dark blackness. Just when he
thought he would stay there, he caught sight of Nicole again and she
was reaching out to him. Grasping her hand he let her lead him towards
a place where he could see the light and hear the rushing water of
The doctors had been fighting what seemed like a losing battle as
they fought to save Johnny’s life. Surgery had been going on
for about two hours now and they didn’t seem to be making any
progress. Just when it would seem like they had him stabilized and
things were going their way, he would take a turn for the worse and
they would have to either fight to get his blood pressure back up or
use the paddles and shock his heart to get it going again. After the
third time his blood pressure had dipped, they were at the point where
there was nothing more they could do. If they couldn’t get his
blood pressure stabilized, they couldn’t continue the surgery
and he wouldn’t make it. The surgeon was ready to call it when
his blood pressure dropped so low they couldn’t even read it.
But just as the doctor was ready to make the decision, Johnny’s
blood pressure began to return to normal and all his vital signs began
to stabilize. Not knowing what was going on but thankful for anything
that helped, the doctors worked quickly to complete the surgery before
anything happened again. They all breathed a sigh of relief when his
vital signs returned to normal and remained that way. Each one knew
it was a miracle that he was alive with the extent of damage he had
received and the length of time he had gone before being treated.
In the OR next door, Roy was keeping his surgical team just as busy.
His broken ribs had nicked his lung and his liver. Plus there was a
vein that was leaking and it took them a long time to find it. His
heart stopped twice (the first time it stopped it started beating again
on its own) and his blood pressure dropped on them three times. But
each time he fought back and made it through the surgery. None of them
knew how—they just knew he was a fighter and had something to
live for. He should have died at the crash site, just like his friend
should have died, because of the delay in getting help to them. But
both men had made it through surgery and now it was a wait and see
When Nicole returned to the DeSoto home, her spirits had been lifted.
Her time in the woods and their special spot had renewed her spirit.
That and the connection she had with Johnny that let her know he was
fighting and was going to be coming home. She also knew that Roy would
be coming home. But then her thoughts turned to Suzette Brice—she
also knew Craig Brice would be coming home—but to be laid to
rest. That dampened her spirits and she went to find Suzette to see
what she could do to comfort her.
Nicole could not fathom the pain that Suzette was feeling. Oh, she
had come close to feeling the same pain, but until Johnny actually
died, she would never be able to feel the depth of the pain Suzette
was now feeling.
Joanne and Nicole approached Suzette and Cindy somewhat hesitantly.
Both women were silently thanking the Lord that it was not their husbands
who had been killed and praying for the woman and little girl standing
in front of them. As the three ladies walked out to the deck out back,
Kimberly took Cindy to the kitchen for a snack. Nicole and Joanne did
something they dreaded. Even though official word had not been received
that Craig was dead, they helped Suzette plan his funeral. All three
desperately hoped the plans were for naught, but instinctively they
knew they would need them.
Hank, Marco, Brandon, Mike and Chet were waiting in the nurses’ lounge
of the Denver Health Medical Center waiting for word on their friends’ conditions.
Hank had already called Chief McConnikee to let them know about Craig
Brice. He had also called the DeSoto home and spoke with Suzette himself.
He wanted her to hear it from a friend and not just someone “official”.
When he had spoken with Joanne, he was not surprised to hear that Suzette
had already been planning Craig’s funeral. But it was hard to
accept that Craig Brice was really gone.
When Hank hung up the phone, he started pacing. It had been eight
hours since they first got word that the plane Johnny, Roy and Craig
had been on was hijacked. Roy and Johnny were in surgery—at least
they thought they were still in surgery. No one had come to update
them on what was going on. Just as he was about to go find one of the
doctors or nurses to see if he could get any information, the door
opened and two doctors dressed in surgical scrubs entered, followed
by Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early and Dixie.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Cantrell and I did the surgery on Mr. Gage.” The
doctor held out his hand to shake Hank’s and then the other three
men as they came to stand behind Hank to hear the news.
“Please call him Johnny. He doesn’t like to be called
Mr. Gage. According to him, being called Mr. Gage makes him feel like
an old man.” Hank smiled at the doctors and Dixie, glad they
“Ok, well, I wanted to let you know that Johnny is in recovery.
He has been there for 30 minutes, but I wanted to make sure he was
stable. We had a difficult time keeping his blood pressure up during
surgery and his heart stopped on us twice. It is still a minute by
minute wait and see situation. I think you should bring his wife here
if at all possible.” The doctor looked at the faces of the group
gathered before him.
“And I’m Dr. Salter. I performed the surgery on Mr. DeSoto—I
mean Roy.” The other doctor shook hands with the men as well
and knew that he, too, should use Roy’s first name in talking
with his friends. “His heart stopped on us twice in surgery—at
least the first time it started on its own. We had a hard time controlling
his blood pressure as well. He is in recovery and is stable for now.
However, I am concerned about his head injury. There may be pressure
building and we are keeping a close watch on him. He, too, is in a
wait and see situation. If you can get his wife here, it would be best.”
“Hank, the doctors are right, we should try to get Nicole and
Joanne here. Joe and I were with them when they did a final check on
both Roy and Johnny. Nicole and Joanne need to be here.” Kelly
Brackett was worried about his friends lying in ICU right now.
Hank nodded and Mike was at the door before anyone could stop and
“I’ll go make the call. Chief, give me a couple of minutes
before you go see them—I really want to be with you.” For
some reason Mike wanted to make the call. He wasn’t sure why—he
knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Ok, thanks. We’ll wait right here for you.” Hank
was relieved he didn’t have to make the call. He had made enough
of those kinds of calls in his career, but when it was those closest
to him, it was very, very hard. He wasn’t sure, though, why Mike
Mike had been relieved that Beth had answered the phone. Even though
he had offered to make the call, he wasn’t really looking forward
to it. “Hi, Beth.”
“Hi, honey. How are things there?” Beth had been dreading
this call on one hand, but had really wanted to know how Roy and Johnny
were. They all needed to know about their friends.
Mike took a deep breath and paused a minute before answering. “Well,
Roy and Johnny are both in bad shape. When Dr. Cantrell and Dr. Salter
came to report to us, they said it would be a good idea to get Nicole
and Joanne here.”
Beth took a deep breath. If they wanted Joanne and Nicole to go to
Colorado, then it must be bad. “What are their chances, Mike?”
“Both doctors said that it is a minute by minute wait and see
situation with them. They think that having Nicole and Joanne here
“Oh, dear, let me get one of them.” Beth went to the living
room where everyone was sitting. No one had actually paid attention
to the phone when it rang, so they were surprised when she said that
Mike was on the phone. Before either Joanne or Nicole could ask, Beth
relayed the information to them.
Nicole took a deep breath. Looking at Joanne, she knew that she would
have to be strong for her friend. “Beth, tell him we’ll
be there as soon as we can make arrangements.”
Beth returned to the phone. “Mike, they said they will be there
just as soon as they can make the arrangements.”
“Let them know a Mr. Waterson from the airlines
said tickets would be waiting at the airport for them. Their flight
leaves in an
hour and a half. Beth, I love you.”
you, too. And Mike, just take care of them for us.” Beth
hung up the phone and went to help Joanne and Nicole in any way she
The ICU waiting room was a little crowded with five LA firefighters,
two LA doctors and a LA nurse waiting for their friends to regain consciousness
and to keep an eye on them. It had been two hours and the waiting was
beginning to get to Chet. He really wanted to know that both of his
friends were going to be ok and would be returning to LA and their
jobs. He couldn’t help but think about Craig Brice. The thing
that bothered him the most was finally realizing that even though the
guy was a little quirky sometimes, he was a true friend. Chet tried
to remember if he had said something nice to Craig to let him know
that he really did consider him a friend. As he thought about the last
few months and the interactions he had with Craig, he started pacing.
After twenty minutes Marco grabbed him and made him sit down. It was
at that moment that he remembered the last time Craig had filled in
for Johnny as Captain. Something had been different on that shift—he
and Craig had gotten along great and had even laughed and joked with
each other. By the end of the shift, both men knew they were really
friends. It made Chet feel a little better.
Just about the time everyone’s patience was wearing thin, Dr.
Brackett suggested they all go and get something to eat. Right then
the five firefighters realized they hadn’t eaten anything since
that morning. So after letting the ICU staff know where they could
be reached in the event something happened, the eight friends went
down the road to a quaint little restaurant not far from the hospital.
Although none of them felt like eating, they knew they would not be
any good to their friends if they didn’t. Also it helped to pass
the time while they waited for Nicole and Joanne to arrive.
The group took their time eating their food. It was a chore for each
of them to make themselves eat but they all knew they had to because
it wouldn’t do any good if one of them got sick. Nicole and Joanne
were going to need them. They were finishing up and had just asked
for the check when an orderly approached the table.
Hank looked up and immediately had a knot in the pit of his stomach.
He knew something was wrong.
“Dr. Brackett?” The orderly did not relish giving this
group the news he was sent to deliver. As Dr. Brackett nodded, he went
on. “Mr. Gage is showing signs of waking up.” He thought
it would be better if he started with the good news first. “But
they just took Mr. DeSoto back to surgery.”
“What for?” Dr. Brackett was on his feet instantly.
“They think he has a subdural hematoma. Dr. Salter has asked
that you all come back to the hospital.” He turned and headed
back out of the restaurant.
As the group stood, the manager came over. “Your meals are on
the house. The orderly informed me of your friends’ conditions.
Just go be with them and support them.”
“Thank you, sir. We’ll let them know.” Hank looked
at his watch. He was surprised that they had been sitting there for
two and a half hours. “Someone needs to go meet Joanne and Nicole.
Their plane should be landing just about now.”
Mike looked at his watch. He decided he would call for a cab and go
meet the two women. “Sir, is there a phone where I can call a
“I live near the airport. Let me call my wife and have her go
meet the two women. She would be there a lot sooner than you would
be if you left from here. What are their names again?” The manager
had overheard the part about someone coming in on an airplane.
“Thank you. Their names are Nicole Gage and Joanne DeSoto.” Hank
was thankful for the compassion this kind man was showing them.
“Are they the wives of the two men who flew the plane?” The
manager had heard the news reports.
“Yes.” Mike looked at Hank and realized that the knot
he had in his stomach was duplicated in Hank’s.
“Are those the two men that the orderly was talking about?” The
reports had not mentioned anything about the two men other than their
names and that they had been the ones that had flown the plane and
tried to land it.
“Yes.” Chet was really anxious to get back to the hospital.
“Well, they are heroes. We are all praying for them.” The
manager stepped aside and let the group pass.
“Thank you, sir. We’ll let Nicole and Joanne know. Your
prayers are greatly appreciated.” Dixie smiled at the manager
as she passed.
Joanne and Nicole stepped into the airport with trepidation. They
wanted to see their husbands but were afraid of the news they would
receive. They looked about the airport and were a little nervous when
they could not find a familiar face anywhere. Neither woman knew what
to do and were just about to ask the United representative how to get
in touch with the hospital when they saw a woman they did not know
standing with a sign with their names on it. Slowly they walked over
to the woman.
“I am Nicole Gage and this is Joanne DeSoto.” Nicole wondered
why a stranger would be there to meet them. The knife in her heart
was plunged a little deeper.
“I’m Mrs. Calvin. My husband owns the Calvin Family Restaurant
just down the street from the hospital. Your friends were in there
earlier to get something to eat and realized they needed to come and
get you. When they asked to use the phone to call a cab, my husband
called and asked if I would pick you up since we live just down the
road. I was very pleased he asked.” She had seen the looks of
fear on the two women’s faces. “I don’t know anything
about your husband’s conditions, but I do know that both men
are alive and in intensive care. I know how anxious you are to get
to the hospital, so let’s go get your luggage.”
As the three women approached the luggage claim, they were met by
an airline representative with Joanne and Nicole’s luggage. It
was only a couple of minutes before they were on their way to the hospital.
Nicole and Joanne were both praying for their husbands and the others
who had survived the crash. Details were still very sketchy as to exactly
what happened, but both women knew their husbands were alive and that
was all that mattered right now.
Hank took his turn at pacing the surgical waiting room. Chet had started
the rotation. Marco has been the one who quickly took up the tour of
the waiting room when Chet tired to be followed by Mike and Brandon.
Hank’s thoughts were not only on Roy who was fighting for his
life in surgery, but also on the two women who were on their way there.
Just as he took his seat, he jumped back up. Nicole and Joanne had
entered the room.
“What’s going on? How are Roy and Johnny?” Nicole
was the one that voiced the question for both women.
“Nicole, Joanne, sit down and we’ll fill you in.” Hank
dreaded the next few minutes. He knew that what he had to tell Nicole
was not all bad, but he wasn’t sure he could face Joanne. After
they were all seated, Hank took a deep breath. “Johnny is in
ICU and sleeping due to a high dose of pain medication. He has a broken
right arm, a concussion and some broken ribs. He underwent surgery
to repair some internal damage and stop some bleeding. They also lost
him twice on the operating table, but he made it through. It is a wait
and see situation.”
There was silence in the room as the women absorbed what Hank was
telling them. Nicole again was the one who found her voice first. “What
Dreading this part, Hank continued. “Roy has a concussion, some
broken ribs, some internal damage and bleeding that was surgical repaired.
They had a hard time maintaining his blood pressure through surgery.” Stopping
to regain his composure, Hank knew he couldn’t put it off any
longer. “They had to take him back to surgery to repair a subdural
hematoma. We haven’t received any word on his condition.”
Joanne sat staring out the waiting room window. A beautiful flower
garden was just outside the window. Nicole put her arm around Joanne’s
shoulders. “Do you want to go and wait with me in Johnny’s
Joanne looked at Nicole. She saw the love, pain, and concern in Nicole’s
eyes. “Yes, I think we should be there when Johnny wakes up.
He’ll be asking questions about Roy and we should be the ones
to tell him.”
Hank couldn’t believe the strength of the two women sitting
in front of him. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll
“That would be great.” Nicole stood and started towards
the door as it opened. Dr. Salter, Dr. Cantrell, Dr. Early, Dr. Brackett
and Dixie entered the room. Joanne stood up next to Nicole and the
two women slipped their arms around each other waiting to hear what
they had to say.
“Mrs. DeSoto?” Dr. Salter was glad the two women had arrived.
“Yes, I’m Joanne and this is Nicole, Johnny’s wife.” Joanne
didn’t want to be called Mrs. DeSoto. The sound of that name
made it seem like Roy was already dead and she didn’t want to
“Joanne, Roy is in recovery. He came through the surgery just
fine. We repaired a subdural hematoma and a small tear. But he should
make a full recovery. We have moved him to ICU. As a matter of fact,
he is right next to Johnny. You can go see them if you want to.”
“Thank you. We were just on our way up there.” Joanne
and Nicole led the way up to ICU.
Chet and Mike sat near Johnny’s bed with Nicole while Marco
and Hank sat near Roy’s bed with Joanne. Brandon leaned against
the wall between the two beds. Dr. Early, Dr. Brackett, and Dixie took
turns checking on their friends. The LA group had been given unlimited
visiting privileges. It was getting late when Nicole realized that
and the fact that they had been sitting by Johnny’s and Roy’s
beds the whole time. Normal ICU visiting times were 10 minutes every
hour. Before she had a chance to ask anyone about their extended visiting
privileges, Dixie sent Joanne, Nicole, Hank, Brandon, Chet, Marco and
Mike to the ICU waiting room while Dr. Salter and Dr. Cantrell checked
Johnny and Roy.
While they were waiting for the doctors, Nicole asked why they were
being given such special treatment. It was then that Hank explained
to them that Roy and Johnny were being called heroes. He went on to
explain what they had been told about the events of the accident. Both
Joanne and Nicole knew that their husbands would have done something
It was about twenty minutes later when Dr. Salter and Dr. Cantrell
entered the room followed by Dixie, Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early. Dr.
Salter motioned for them to stay seated when the group began to stand
up. “Everything looks very good. Both men are sleeping and will
continue to do so for the rest of the night. I really believe that
all of you should go to the hotel and get some rest.”
Just as the men started to protest, Nicole spoke up. “I think
you’re right. None of us are going to do them any good if we
get sick. We also can’t do anything here. Joanne, I know you
want to be with Roy, but don’t you think that it would hinder
his recovery if he knew you weren’t taking care of yourself?”
Joanne smiled at Nicole knowing that she was just as worried about
both Johnny and Roy as Joanne was. “I know you’re right.
Once again Hank was amazed at the two women seated next to him on
the couch. They were the two who should be leaning on the others for
support and here they were being the strong ones.
Dixie smiled at Nicole. “Good. Let’s all go back to the
hotel and try to get some sleep. I know the airlines set us up with
two suites. The men have a three-bedroom suite and we have a two-bedroom
suite right next door.”
Nicole and Joanne went into the ICU unit which housed their husbands
to say good-night before joining the rest of the LA group to head to
the hotel. With one more kiss and a quick prayer, they walked down
the hospital hallway arm in arm.
They may have been willing to go to the hotel the night before, but
both Nicole and Joanne were ready to head back to the hospital at 6:00
a.m. They were glad they had shared a room and let Dixie take the other
room in the suite. She was still asleep as were the men. Leaving a
note to let the others know where they were, they went to the main
lobby, called a cab and were on their way to their husbands’ bedsides
by 6:15 a.m.
As they approached the beds, Nicole turned to smile at Joanne. Both
men were trying to wake up. The nurses who were checking their vitals
smiled at the women. “Are you their wives?” Johnny’s
nurse saw the love in Nicole’s eyes.
“Yes, we are. How are they doing this morning?” Joanne
was happy to see her husband showing signs of waking up.
“Their vital signs are excellent and now that you are here,
we are sure they will soon open their eyes. We’ll leave you alone.” The
nurses smiled as they left the room each saying a prayer that what
they had just said was indeed true.
Nicole walked over and gave Roy a kiss on the forehead before heading
over to sit beside Johnny’s bed. Joanne had done the same to
Johnny. Both women settled in knowing that just because the two men
were showing signs of waking up, it could be hours, days or even longer
before they actually did.
Dixie wandered into the sitting room that was the center of their
suite. She was surprised, but secretly glad that Joanne and Nicole
were still sleeping—at least she thought they were sleeping.
There were no sounds coming from their room. She wandered over to the
small kitchenette to start a pot of coffee. It was only then that she
saw the note Joanne had put on the coffee maker. Reading the note,
she just shook her head. She should have known that neither woman would
have slept very well and would have been anxious to get back to the
Dixie jumped when the phone rang. Glancing at the small clock on the
table near the phone, she picked up the receiver. “Hello.—Oh,
hi, Hank.—Well, actually I just found a note from Joanne. She
and Nicole couldn’t sleep and they left by taxi a little over
two hours ago.—Yes, they went back to the hospital.—They
didn’t want to wake any of us because they knew we all needed
our sleep.—Yeah, I’ll be ready in 30 minutes. We can catch
something to eat on the way to the hospital.—See you then. Bye.”
Hank turned to see six faces staring back at him. Chet had actually
jumped when Hank had almost screamed ‘what?’ at something
Dixie had said. The other men did figure out that Nicole and Joanne
had probably gone to the hospital already. “Joanne and Nicole
called a cab around 6:00 this morning and went the hospital.”
“Why didn’t they wake us up?” Kelly Brackett was
concerned for his friends.
“Because they knew we all needed our sleep.” Hank just
shook his head at that one. “Dixie said she would be ready in
30 minutes and we could grab some breakfast on the way.”
Seven men hurried to their rooms without another word so they could
be ready when Dixie was.
When the five firefighters, two doctors and Dixie arrived, Nicole
and Joanne had both fallen asleep with their husbands’ hands
secured firmly in their own and their heads resting on their husbands’ chests.
Hank smiled at the sight of the two women. His smile grew even bigger
as he looked up and saw Johnny smiling and looking at Nicole and Joanne.
But both Johnny’s and Hank’s smiles fell as they looked
at Roy. He was still unconscious.
“Hey, Johnny, how are you feeling?” Dixie’s voice
was quiet. She had seen that Johnny was awake, too. Trying to take
his mind off of Roy after seeing his smile fall, Dixie tried her best
to cheer him up.
“Hey, Dix. I hurt all over, but at least I’m alive. How
did we get to Rampart and how long have we been here?” Johnny
absentmindedly ran his good hand back and forth over Nicole’s
“I’m not surprised that you hurt all over, Johnny. You
aren’t at Rampart. You’re in the Denver Community Hospital.
Do you remember what happened?” Dixie knew that everyone would
want to know exactly how Johnny was doing. “Can you tell us what
“How much do you guys already know about our flight?” Johnny
remembered every detail and knew he would never forget it. For the
time being, Johnny didn’t think about how the others might have
gotten there. It never occurred to him to question their presence at
the hospital. After all, that was where they always were when one of
them got hurt or was sick.
“We know that the plane was hijacked and changed course. The
rest of the passengers said the hijackers shot the pilot and co-pilot
and that the passengers were eventually able to subdue them. They said
that three of the hijackers were killed by their friends. They said
that after asking everyone, the only person who had any type of flying
experience at all was Roy and you helped him. They don’t know
what happened after that other than the fact that you crashed. We also
know that Craig Brice died saving a mother and her little girl.” Dixie
smiled as Nicole woke up at the sound of Johnny and Dixie’s voices.
“Roy and I took over hoping that we would be able to get the
plane on the ground without too many more injuries or deaths. However,
when the hijackers started shooting they hit the radio and some of
the main controls as well as the hydraulic system and fuel line in
the back. We all prayed that we could get down before the plane dropped
like a rock. Then we realized we were off course when a mountain loomed
in front of us. We had the plane on the ground by this time and pulled
with all our might on the brakes to try to stop before we hit the mountain
and we almost made it. At the last minute, Roy did the only thing he
could do—he turned the plane so the impact would cause the least
amount of damage. Since it was the easiest and quickest way to turn,
we hit the mountain on the right-front corner—my side of the
plane. The plane broke apart and we both lost consciousness. The rest
is as the others told you.” Johnny was losing his strength and
his fight to stay awake. Nicole leaned up and kissed him just as he
fell back to sleep.
“They really are heroes, aren’t they?” Nicole couldn’t
take her eyes off Johnny’s face.
“Yes, Nicole, they are.” Mike was proud of his friends
and prayed that both would recover fully.
It had been two days since Nicole and Joanne had arrived. Johnny had
spent most of the two days drifting between being awake and sleeping.
Roy still had not regained consciousness. Joanne was beginning to get
a little worried, but didn’t want to let the others know. But
Nicole knew. So when she entered the room this time, a smile lit up
her face. Johnny smiled up at her from his place on the chair next
to Roy’s bed.
Nicole had to stifle the laughter as she watched Joanne enter the
room. Joanne was talking to Hank who led the rest of the group into
the room. She hadn’t noticed yet.
“I think I’ll go call the kids after we check on Roy and
Johnny. I know the kids will want to know how they are today.” For
some reason, Joanne still had not seen Johnny sitting next to Roy’s
“Why not call them from here and let them hear their father’s
voice?” Nicole watched Roy’s eyes twinkle as he saw his
“Yeah, Joanne, why don’t you call them from here?” Hank’s
grin lit up his whole face as he realized that Roy was awake.
“I don’t want them to ask to talk to Roy and be disappointed.” Joanne
had missed the part of Nicole’s question about the kids hearing
their father’s voice.
“But I would really like to talk to them. I miss them.” Roy’s
grin got even bigger as Joanne realized it really was his voice she
“Roy, you’re awake!” Joanne rushed to his side as
everyone in the room laughed at her obvious statement.
Dr. Brackett, Dixie, and Nicole helped Johnny back to bed as Joanne
just hugged Roy. She then picked up the phone. Knowing from experience
that the healing sleep that Roy’s body required would soon claim
him, Joanne called Chris, Jenny, Crystal and Jason and let them talk
to their father. The fear left their voices as they each had the opportunity
to talk with him and know that he was indeed going to be ok. Then Nicole
called their kids, who were just as thrilled to hear their father’s
voice and knew that he would be coming home soon.
It was only ten minutes later that both Johnny and Roy had given in
to the call for sleep from their healing bodies. A very happy group
of LA residents sat talking quietly in the room when Dr. Salter, Dr.
Cantrell, two men and a woman entered the room.
“Joanne, Nicole, this is Mr. Thomas Coxon, the local United
representative, Mr. Norman Radner, the President of United, and Ms.
Rachel Wayman, news reporter from station 10 here in Denver.” Dr.
Salter and Dr. Cantrell had received word that Roy and Johnny were
awake just before the group had arrived. But when they got to the room
to check on them, the others were there and the two doctors didn’t
want to intrude on the “family’s” joyous moment.
Ms. Wayman would like to do a story on Roy and Johnny, our two heroes.
Mr. Coxon and Mr. Radner would like to meet them and say thank you.”
“It’s nice to meet all of you. I’m afraid, though,
that you just missed your chance to talk with them right now. Both
of them fell asleep about five minutes ago. As for being heroes, we
all think they are from what we have heard, but I’m not sure
that either one of them would call themselves heroes. I’m sure
we are going to have to deal with some feelings of guilt that even
though they did everything humanly possible, they didn’t save
everyone.” Nicole looked from the doctors to the faces of the
two men in the hospital beds.
“Feelings of guilt? You mean they will feel guilty because some
of the passengers died?” Mr. Coxon couldn’t believe what
he was hearing.
“Yes, both Johnny and Roy care deeply about saving others. That’s
what makes them the best at their jobs. When they first started working
together as paramedics, they were the best team in the country. As
a matter of fact, there hasn’t been a better team yet. But that
caring also runs deep enough that they take it hard when they lose
someone—even though there was absolutely nothing they could have
done to prevent it. So, as incredible as it seems, both men will have
feelings of guilt and wonder if they could have done more when they
start really talking about the crash.” Dr. Brackett was proud
of his friends. “I also believe, Ms. Wayman that neither man
will want to give an interview. They will both tell you they were just
doing their jobs.”
“But they weren’t on duty on that plane—they were
just as much victims as the rest of the passengers and crew.” Mr.
Radner was just as surprised at what they were hearing as Mr. Coxon.
“To Roy and Johnny, whenever there is a need for their services,
they are on duty no matter where they are. If they had just sat and
done nothing, they would have been even more devastated than they will
be when they realize that they were able to save at least some of the
passengers. It will take a lot of talking and a little time, but both
of them will realize that they did everything they could and it was
in God’s hands.” Joanne couldn’t keep the love she
felt for both men out of her voice. “And I agree with Dr. Brackett.
I don’t think either one will want to be interviewed about the
“They’re right. Both men will be very reluctant to talk
to you and I’m not sure you will ever get them to. Neither one
of them will feel like they are heroes. They might even feel that they
failed because they couldn’t stop the needless killing of the
pilot and co-pilot which then put them in the cockpit.” Nicole
knew that Roy and Johnny wouldn’t want all the attention talking
with the reporter would bring.
“Well, I have been interviewing some of the survivors and have
appointments with several others to get their stories. I hope you are
all wrong and I will get the chance to hear what happened in the cockpit.
They didn’t fail—they won and we are going to prove it
to them. Whether they feel they are heroes or not, they are and I plan
on letting everyone know it.” Rachel Wayman prayed that these
two men would somehow be willing to talk to her.
“Yes, they are heroes whether they feel they are or not. And
we, at United, are going to honor them and thank them. According to
what we have heard so far—they were the only ones willing to
try. Everyone else either panicked or was too afraid to try. They saved
a lot of lives that would have been lost—including their own.
We will be forever grateful for that.” Mr. Radner wanted to make
sure these people knew that the airlines were grateful for the two
men lying in the hospital beds at this moment and what they had done.
The two representatives and the reporter had left shortly after their
conversation but only after receiving the promise that Nicole and Joanne
would talk to their husbands and see if they could get them to talk
with the reporter. Hank, Mike, Brandon, Chet, Marco, Dr. Brackett,
Dr. Early and Dixie were discussing their plans to return to LA the
following morning. All of them needed to get back to their jobs. Mr.
Radner had told the group that because of what Johnny and Roy had done
all of them would fly free anytime they needed to fly somewhere for
the rest of their lives. He also told them that they would have priority
seating when they flew. That was why when Hank called the airlines
to see when they could get a flight home he was told they could fly
the next morning—in first class.
“The representative told me she would check and call me back.
I gave her my name and started to give her the hotel room number. She
stopped me as soon as I got my name out and she said just a minute
and put me on hold. I thought I was going to be on hold forever. She
came back two minutes later and said that she had eight seats in first
class on flight 47 leaving at 10:00 tomorrow all reserved for us. All
I could do was thank her and hang up. I guess Mr. Radner got the word
out before he even told us.” Hank still couldn’t believe
how fast he had gotten the flight.
“Then he really wasn’t kidding when he said we would fly
priority. Man, I’m going to have to thank Roy and Johnny for
that one when they get home.” Chet had thought the Airline President
didn’t really mean that they would all be able to fly free and
in first class at any time. And even if it was true, he didn’t
think it would have been done that fast.
As the story unfolded of what happened on United flight 543 that day,
the more everyone believed that Roy and Johnny were truly heroes. One
of the male passengers had been just outside the cockpit door when
Johnny and Roy had gone in to look at the pilot and co-pilot. He informed
everyone he could that not only had Roy and Johnny flown the plane
when they had to, but when the commotion in the cabin broke out, they
had jumped the two hijackers in the cockpit. They had been able to
push the two men out of the cockpit door and lock it. The only problem
had been that they weren’t able to do it before the two men had
fired their weapons damaging the controls and radio.
It was after a 10-minute story on the news by Rachel Wayman five days
after the crash that Roy and Johnny heard all the details of the thwarted
hijacking attempt and were surprised to find themselves being called
heroes. Their friends had been right—both men were feeling guilty
because lives had been lost—including Craig Brice’s.
Nicole had been sitting beside Johnny watching his face as the story
unfolded. Instead of telling him he really was a hero and that he had
nothing to feel guilty about she turned to him and asked him to tell
her his side of the story again. As he relayed the events as they happened,
she would ask him what he would have done differently if he could do
it all over again. Each time she received the same response—“nothing”.
He and Roy had done all they could. Nicole would periodically ask Roy
what he would have done differently and again got the same response—“nothing”.
As the two men finished discussing the events and filling their wives
in, they both came to the realization that because of them lives were
saved and there was nothing they could have done any differently to
save any more passengers. Joanne joined the two men as they thanked
Nicole for helping them realize there was no reason they should feel
guilty. They had given their usual 150% that day and there were people
who had walked away from the crash alive because the two men had tried.
Joanne had been surprised that Nicole was able to convince Johnny
and Roy to talk to Rachel Wayman to give their side of the events of
that fateful day. No one had thought they would grant an interview
and when Joanne told Mike and Dixie that night, everyone was surprised.
But both men said they wanted to clear up the impression that they
were heroes. So a week after the crash, they agreed to talk to Ms.
While the two men talked with the reporter, Nicole and Joanne stood
off to one side listening. They couldn’t believe what they were
hearing as Roy and Johnny shared their story of what had transpired.
Both women were secretly glad that they were also sharing their feelings
about what had happened.
“So you see, Ms. Wayman, we are not heroes—we are just
two men doing their jobs.” Johnny wanted the interview to be
over. Everyone was making too big of a deal about the whole thing.
“You both may think you were just doing your jobs, but what
you both did that day was far above just doing your jobs. Thank you
for being willing to try to save all those people.” Rachel shook
both men’s hands and smiled at Joanne and Nicole as she left
the room with her cameraman.
“I’m sure glad that’s over. I just wish all this
attention would disappear.” Roy was as happy as Johnny that Rachel
Wayman was gone. He didn’t like all the attention either.
Nicole noticed that both men were fighting to stay awake. But they
lost the fight and finally let their broken bodies get the healing
rest they needed.
Two hours later Dr. Salter and Dr. Cantrell heard the four talking
as they entered the room. It was good to hear them. There had been
a few times during the first couple of days the two men had been at
the hospital that they weren’t sure that either man was going
to make it. Both doctors were thankful that they were now going to
deliver some very good news to these men.
When the two doctors completed their exams, they stood between Johnny
and Roy’s beds. “Well, we have something to tell you.” Dr.
“I sure hope its good news.” Joanne had a feeling of apprehension
in her stomach.
“Well, if you consider that we are making arrangements for all
of you to fly home good news, then the answer is yes.” Dr. Cantrell
smiled at the looks on the faces of the two couples as it took a few
seconds for the news to sink in.
“Home? We’re going home?” Johnny was the first to
find his voice.
“Yes, we are going to release you from here to fly back to LA
tomorrow if you both promise to check yourselves into Rampart when
you get there. Dr. Brackett is already expecting you.” Dr. Salter
laughed at the looks on the two men’s faces.
“Well, at least we’ll be in L.A. I’m ready to go
home.” Johnny wanted to see his kids.
“So am I. When do we leave?” Roy was just as ready to
hold his kids in his arms as Johnny was.
Chuckling, Dr. Salter informed the group that arrangements had already
been made for them to leave at 10:00 in the morning. After the two
doctors left, Nicole and Joanne hugged their husbands and cried tears
of joy. Both of them missed their families, too.
The two couples decided that they would call Dr. Brackett and see
if he would help them keep their homecoming a secret. They wanted to
surprise their friends and loved ones, but they also knew that once
Rachel Wayman’s piece hit the air, their local stations back
home would probably pick it up and they just wanted to go home in peace.
Kelly Brackett was happy to keep the guys’ homecoming a secret.
Their experiences had already made the front page of the LA Times and
he knew that it would be a media frenzy around the hospital if word
got out that they were coming home. However, as he waited for the two
men to arrive, he could not keep the smile off his face. When he had
passed Dixie, Dr. Morton and Dr. Early for the third time without acknowledging
them, they knew they had to find out what was going on.
As the time neared when Roy and Johnny would arrive, Dixie, Joe Early
and Mike Morton grew more determined to find out what Kel Brackett
was up to. He had gathered four orderlies and four security men and
was waiting at the emergency room door. But before any of them could
ask what was going on, the level of activity at the emergency entrance
grew hectic. Two gurneys were whipped through the doors and rushed
directly onto the elevators before any of the medical personnel had
a chance to blink.
When the commotion settled down, Dixie looked at the two doctors standing
beside her and saw the same confused looks on their faces that she
had on hers. “Gentlemen, the elevator stopped on the third floor.
I think we should find out just what is going on.”
“I agree, Dix, lead the way.” Dr. Early had already punched
the up button to call the elevator.
As the three friends stepped off the elevator, they saw the hub of
activity centered around a room at the far end of the hall. Sure that
was where they would find Dr. Brackett, they started in that direction.
Kelly Brackett walked out of 325 and started towards the nurses’ station
to give some instructions before he made sure Roy and Johnny had been
settled in their room. Looking up from the charts in his hands he saw
the three determined medical personnel headed towards him. He knew
it was time to let them in on what was going on. Before they reached
him, he smiled as he saw Nicole and Joanne exit the elevator.
“Kelly Brackett, we want to know what is going on and we want
to know NOW.” Dixie was determined to find out what Dr. Brackett
“I think we can answer that question.” Nicole laughed
as Dr. Morton jumped at the sound of her voice. They had been so intent
on Dr. Brackett, they didn’t notice the two women who had joined
“Nicole, Joanne, what are you doing here?” Dixie wondered
why they would be in L.A. Then it hit her. Johnny and Roy were being
settled in 325. That was the secrecy.
Dr. Early and Dr. Morton had figured it out at the same time. “How
are our two heroes doing? Did they survive the trip home?” Joe
Early was glad their friends had come home.
“Other than being a little tired and in some pain from all the
moving around, I think they are doing just fine.” Joanne knew
that all these people cared about Roy and Johnny, too.
“Let’s go see them and you can see for yourselves.” Dr.
Brackett smiled as all of them headed down the hall. “Sorry for
the secrecy, but Johnny and Roy asked that it be this way. They didn’t
want anyone to find out they are home. They didn’t want a media
Dixie, Joe and Mike all nodded as they opened the door to room 325.
The smiles on their faces grew even bigger as they saw their two favorite
captains/paramedics settled and asleep.
Mike, Brandon, Marco and Chet had all met at Hank’s home to
make plans for helping the DeSotos and Gages until Roy and Johnny were
back on their feet. They were going to make a list of the things that
would need to be taken care of, set up a schedule and then ask their
crews and some of the other firefighters to help out. Hank had just
brought the guys some lemonade to drink when the phone rang.
“Hello.----This is Hank Stanley.----Hi, Nicole. How are Johnny
and Roy?----Great.------What would you like us to do?---Just a minute,
the guys are here and I’ll ask them. I don’t think it will
be a problem though.”
Hank turned to the four expectant faces watching him. “There
are two guys at Rampart that are friends of the Gages and DeSotos.
They would like us to go and visit them for Johnny and Roy.” Receiving
affirmative nods as he knew he would, Hank turned back to his phone
“Sure, Nicole, we’ll all be there. What room are they
in?----Ok, we’ll be there in about half an hour.”
Within five minutes the four friends were on their way to Rampart
not realizing the “friends” they were visiting for Johnny
and Roy were really the two men themselves.
Hank, Mike, Brandon, Marco and Chet entered Rampart through the emergency
entrance. They were going to meet Dixie at the nurses’ station
so she could take them to meet Roy and Johnny’s “friends.” On
the drive to the hospital, the five men had discussed their ideas for
helping the Gage and DeSoto families and speculated who the two men
were they were going to visit. They still had not been able to even
hazard a guess when they met Dixie.
“Hi, fellas. Glad you could make it.” Dixie’s eyes
twinkled at the four men. She was waiting along with seven other people
to see their reactions when they discovered who was in room 325.
“Dixie, who are these two friends Roy and Johnny wanted us to
visit?” Hank was curious about his friends’ request.
“Well, Hank, you’ll soon find out. But you all have met
them before.” The five curious men couldn’t get any more
information out of the head ER nurse as they headed towards the elevator.
As they stepped into the elevator, Mike caught the mischievous twinkle
in Dixie’s eyes and knew right away who they were going to visit.
He exchanged a knowing glance with Brandon who had also figured it
out. Dixie saw the look and knew that both men were aware of who they
were visiting. She caught their eyes and minutely shook her head. Mike
and Brandon minutely nodded back and didn’t voice their revelation.
Not only did they want to see their two friends, they also wanted to
see the reactions of the others.
Hank pushed open the door and held it for Dixie to enter first. The
occupants of the room smiled and waited. Hank allowed Mike and Brandon
to go in after Dixie. Mike’s smile went from ear to ear as Johnny
put his finger to his lips and Brandon’s smile could have lit
all of Rampart. Hank had his head turned and was talking to Chet and
Marco, so he was all the way through the door before he turned and
saw who was lying in the hospital beds. When it finally registered
in his brain, he stopped dead in his tracks causing a chain reaction
with Marco bumping into Hank and Chet bumping into Marco.
“Why did you-----?” Chet’s voice trailed off as
he recognized the laughter. “But you guys are in Denver.” Chet
couldn’t believe their friends were in the hospital beds before
them. “How did you get here? When did you get here?” The
questions tumbled out of Chet’s mouth, one right after the other
without a breath in between.
“Well, if you really want us to go back to Denver, I guess we
can.” Roy wanted to tease his friends.
“No, don’t listen to him. He’s being the usual twit
that he is.” Hank was glad to see the two men.
The next two hours were spent with the Gages and DeSotos explaining
how they came home with every few people knowing—and why—and
discussions on how the others wanted to help. Dixie had slipped out
about 15 minutes after they had arrived to get back to work. As she
left, she once again marveled at the friendship that had developed
between the six men of the original Station 51 A-shift.
The Station 51 family get-together to celebrate Roy and Johnny’s
release from the hospital was being held out at the Gage ranch. It
was far enough away from town that everyone hoped they could do it
in peace. The media had been trying to talk to Roy and Johnny or anyone
who knew them, but so far had been unsuccessful. Everyone prayed the
attention would soon die down.
Hank and Mike had stopped by the DeSoto ranch to walk over with Roy
and his family. They could see all the cars in the Gage driveway, all
the people milling around, and all the kids running through the fields.
Smiles broke out on all the adults’ faces as they saw their friends
and loved ones. Silent prayers of thanks were being sent heavenward
for the station 51 family.
They were half way across the field when Mike noticed the news truck
driving along the road towards the Gage ranch. “Chief, look.” Mike
pointed towards the road.
Hank sighed as he followed the line Mike’s arm indicated. He
made a detour and headed towards the road. Out of the corner of his
eye, he saw Chief McConnikee and one member of each of Mike, Roy and
Johnny’s crews headed towards the road, too. They all met at
the end of the driveway and formed a barrier. The news truck pulled
up and stopped when it reach the end of the driveway.
The driver of the truck leaned out of the window when Hank approached
it. “Sir, we are not here to interfere or bother anyone. We just
wanted to see what Captains DeSoto and Gage thought about the invitation
from the White House.”
“What invitation from the White House?” Hank had not been
aware of any invitation.
“The one I am here to extend to them.” The men had all
been so intent on protecting their friends from the media they hadn’t
noticed LA County Fire Marshall Jay Harrison arriving behind the news
truck. He turned towards the news team. “If you will let me talk
to these people in peace, I’ll grant you an interview when I’m
done. If you will promise to leave them alone, I’ll answer your
questions. If you don’t agree, the interview will be very short.”
“Yes, sir. We agree to your conditions.” The news crew
was more than ready to agree to the Fire Marshall’s terms.
The news crew kept their word and stayed at the end of the driveway
as Hank and Chief McConnikee rounded everyone up to hear what Fire
Marshall Harrison had to say. It wasn’t very long and Fire Marshall
Harrison was looking into a large group of expectant faces.
“I have the honor today of delivering what LA County and the
California Governor’s office feel is very exciting news. We were
all proud when the State of Colorado and United Airlines honored Roy,
Johnny and Craig. But when they received the request for Roy, Johnny
and their families and Suzette and Cindy Brice to visit the White House,
they were speechless. Both offices believe this could further promote
the Paramedic Program. We hope you will accept the President’s
invitation.” Fire Marshall Harrison watched the emotions play
across Roy and Johnny’s faces.
Roy and Johnny turned and stared at each other. It had not sunk in
yet what they had just been told. It was Nicole who broke the ice. “The
President invited us to the White House?”
“Yes, and they are going to fly you there on a government plane.
The invitation includes staying in the White House for the time you
“Well, I think it is an honor we don’t deserve, but I’m
not going to say no to the President.” Johnny finally realized
what he was actually hearing.
“Yeah, you’re right, Johnny. I’m not going to say
no to the President either. When do we leave?” Roy couldn’t
believe they were still being called heroes. After all, they had just
been doing what they had been trained to do and what they felt were
“You leave the end of this week and will be there for a week.” Fire
Marshall Harrison had just enough time to answer Roy’s question
before the cheering and hollering erupted from Johnny and Roy’s
families and crews. Suzette and Cindy Brice who had also joined the
party were pulled into a big hug by Nicole and Joanne. They were all
going to the White House.
As Fire Marshall Harrison walked back towards the news crew who were
waiting by their truck with smiles across their faces, the congratulations
could be heard clear down the driveway.
Roy and Johnny walked down the White House portico in the Rose Garden.
Johnny still couldn’t believe they were at the White House and
the press conference they were about to be a part of. After all, they
were just doing their jobs. Both men had emphasized in their meeting
with the President that they just represented all the real heroes in
the country who daily risked their lives for strangers because it was
their job. They didn’t want any special recognition. They also
stressed that Craig Brice had given his life saving a mother and her
As they arrived at the Rose Garden, Johnny and Roy were shocked at
the number of reporters and photographers that filled the lawn in front
of the podium. They would have liked to blend in with the crowd and
disappear, but the President’s Press Secretary’s aide was
by their side leading them to a spot just behind the podium. Both men
would have preferred to not be the center of attention and to not have
their pictures taken, but right now they were standing next to the
President and their names had been in the news from coast to coast.
When President Reagan stepped to the podium, Johnny prayed that they
would not be singled out as heroes. There were a lot of men and women
who willingly put their lives on the line every day and some of them,
like Craig Brice, gave their lives so that others may live.
“Today we are gathered to recognize three men who put their
lives on the line to try to save the passengers on United Flight 543.
One of them made the ultimate sacrifice in saving the lives of a woman
and her daughter. But these men told me they weren’t really heroes;
they were just doing their job. They said they just represent all the
firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, and police officers who daily risk
their lives by entering into situations that most people are running
out of. I have been asked to recognize all emergency personnel and
not just these three men. So Roy DeSoto and John Gage, who were two
of the first paramedics in the country, represent all those we wish
to honor today.
“And as Captain DeSoto and Captain Gage made me realize, there
is another group that are heroes and that is the families of firefighters,
paramedics, EMTs and Police. Each time these people walk out the door
to go do their jobs, the families say goodbye not knowing if it will
be the last time they see those loved ones, yet they willingly let
their loved ones go. It takes a special kind of person to do that.
So today let’s honor and thank these people for ‘just doing
their jobs’.” President Reagan turned and shook hands with
Johnny and Roy to the thunderous applause of the crowd gathered in
the Rose Garden.
Johnny sent up a silent thanks that his prayer had
been answered and all emergency personnel were honored. He was proud
to be a part of
the brotherhood that spread from coast to coast and encompassed all
firefighters, paramedics, EMTs and Police officers.
Life had settled into a comfortable routine. Chris DeSoto and William
Stoker had both graduated from high school and followed their fathers
into the fire service. Chris was planning on becoming a paramedic and
William wanted to an engineer like his father.
Hank Stanly had been a Battalion Chief for just under seven years
and he ad the same respect and loyalty from all the men in his battalion
that he had from the original Station 51 A-Shift crew. Everyone knew
that the loyalty and respect were earned because he was willing to
do anything he asked of his men and he cared about them. If there was
any member of his battalion that was injured, he was one of the first
firefighters at the hospital checking on them.
Today Hank was reminiscing through the years since he was assigned
to Station 51 during the early years of the station. His first crew
there had become a big part of his family not just his coworkers or
friends. He wasn’t sure why he was feeling so nostalgic, but
there was something niggling at the back of his mind. All of a sudden
he had a feeling that something big was going to happen. He prayed
that all the responding personnel would be kept safe. He had no way
of knowing that his world was going to change forever.
To be continued in Unexpected
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