JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A Florida firefighter, a stranger to Region 8, deserves praise in the middle of the rush to exit the stadium.
I personally share this story as a way to thank an Orlando firefighter who went out of his way to help me in a time of need. At the conclusion of the Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium, there was a mad dash for everyone to leave the stadium. Buses needed to roll out with students. Players were leaving on the way to the airport. In the midst of all of this, my 88-year-old mother and I discovered that the event personnel had shut down the gate we came in (and near where we parked our car.)
We had planned just to re-trace our steps after the game back to the side street where I paid to park my car in what was full sunshine then; now in darkness. After numerous pleas with the event personnel to re-open the gate or just shuttle us over on a golf cart, the answer was "no," we cannot do that. "Please! I need help," for her—Mom's hands shaking as she realizes that we were now looking at approximately a half mile walk, if not more, in an unfamiliar area—and not sure how to get back to the car from a different direction. It was parked in a yard down a side street near the stadium.
I looked around for a split second and saw a man in uniform. After explaining the predicament to him, he too appealed to the stadium workers. But, to no avail. The answer was still no.
That's probably when someone else would have said, "Sorry, ma'am. I can't help you."
But, not this gentleman.
He went into a first aid staging area, retrieved a wheelchair and insisted on walking us to the car, no matter how far away it was. With a knowledge of the area, he said, "There's no way I would let you and your mother just walk by yourselves in this area."
Pushing his way through gravel, ruts in dirt, broken sidewalk and several curbs with the wheelchair, he said he just could not leave us to fend for ourselves. As we approached the side of the stadium where the car was parked, everything was dark.
Several people standing on the busted sidewalks stared at us.
The trek was long.
I asked his name.
"Tony Ramos," he replied.
I told him that I worked in the news media and asked if he had been a part of the tragic Pulse nightclub incident earlier this year. He said he had provided relief for the firefighters who had. Ramos said many of the first responders experienced post-traumatic stress from incident. He advised that some of the best firefighters were working the night the incident happened.
The desolate side street was darker now. My heart raced just a bit more. Just about then, we saw the car. Firefighter Ramos advised us to not hit the button to sound the horn to the car; but to just unlock it so as not to startle anyone in the neighborhood. I paid more attention-- than ever--to which button I selected on the key fob and he helped get my mother into the car. Ramos even buckled her up. Then, he advised us how to proceed out of the area.
Tony Ramos went above and beyond to keep us safe. Just as firefighters all over this nation run towards danger to save lives, he didn't hesitate when I asked for help. I sure hope this message of appreciation gets back to him and encourages others to find it in their heart to help someone in need. I'm sure he wanted to head home quickly that night like everyone else. But, instead he helped us to find our way in the darkest of night.
For that, I am most grateful.
Thank you, Tony Ramos. I hope the citizens of Orlando realize how fortunate they are to have you.
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