40 Years' Worth of Thanks

[Boston.com] The firefighter crawled on his stomach through the pitch-black apartment, the smoke so thick he couldn't see his hand in front of his face. Somewhere inside was a baby and he had to find her.

A window broke, light filled the room, and he saw her lying in her crib, dressed only in a diaper, unconscious. Soot covered her tiny nose. She wasn't breathing and had no pulse.

He grabbed her and breathed life into her as he ran from the apartment.

A newspaper photograph captured their image - a white firefighter from South Boston with his lips pressed to the mouth of a black baby from the Roxbury public housing development - at a time when riots sparked by racial tensions were burning down American cities.

But despite this most intimate of introductions, they remained strangers. William Carroll won a commendation for the rescue, stayed on the job another 34 years, and retired. Evangeline Harper grew up, lost her family to drugs and illness, had six children of her own, and became a nursing and teaching assistant. And through it all someone would often tell her the story about the day she almost died and the man who would not let it happen. She always wanted to meet him and say thank you.

Yesterday, more than 40 years after the fire, she finally did.



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