In the Summer of 2002, an article in the New York Post began with the words, "Each picture Laura Yanes takes of a courageous firefighter is worth a thousand thank-you's." Those words were never truer for me than in Midland, Texas last April.
My 18 year old niece, Gabby, was a passenger in her boyfriend Jordan's car when they were hit head-on by an adult driver, who, according to the police report, crossed the double yellow line while text messaging.
Midland Fire Department Chief Russ Conley gathered the crews (photo above) who responded to the traffic accident so our families could thank them and I could thank them with a photo. The teens' parents joined me and through tears of relief and gratitude, we looked each firefighter in the eyes and said, "Thank You!"
Gabby and Jordan were badly injured. According to Chief Conley, the guys knew that she would need immediate surgery if she was to survive. Their quick action provided her with just that opportunity.
I took quite a few photographs that day and in the days that followed. The main station is just around the corner from the hospital. As I prepared to photograph the two EMTs on the ambulance, a third (on the left) approached me and asked, "Can I get in this shot?"
I'd been told the other two drove her to the hospital. I wanted the photo so Gabby could see the faces of the men who saved her life.
"I'm usually on the Engine," he said to me. "But that day, I jumped into the back of the ambulance to work her on the way to the hospital." I had to hold back the tears to focus the camera.
Three members of the Rescue Unit described their efforts to rip open the crushed vehicle to extricate Gabby and Jordan.
Another guy told Gabby's mother about squeezing into the back of the car to hold Gabby steady while the jaws of life and saws buzzed around her. He spoke comforting words to Gabby the whole time.
My niece spent a month in the hospital. Jordan spent weeks with doctors hoping not to have to remove his foot. Thankfully, both are doing well and getting stronger every day.
The large group photo above was given to Gabby whose mother taped it to her hospital door. It caught the attention of patients, visitors, doctors and other hospital personnel, many of whom acknowledged they never thought about the work firefighters have to do to get accident victims to the emergency room. One of Gabby's nurses was surprised to see that her brother was in the photo (wearing sun glasses). She regularly walked people over to Gabby's room to brag about how proud she is of him and the others.
So are we!