Theresa Blevins

AS THE WATER BEGAN TO RISE

During my teenage years, my father spent much of his free time volunteering at the Vinton Rescue Squad.  I could not grasp why he would rather spend his precious time in a smoke-filled room, with the smell of sweaty men and smoke[AC1]  permeating the air, than with his family. They would just sit around playing pool, telling jokes and playing pranks on one another.  I could not understand why he was drawn to such an environment. [AC2] It was not until the devastating flood of 1985 that I finally began to view my father as the hero he was and understand the gravity and necessity of his work.

As we pulled ourselves out of bed early that cold November morning, we could see that the impending rains had already begun. Everything outdoors[AC3]  was saturated and drooping from the heavy downpour. The sky was ominously dark, and the wind was so strong that the trees looked as though they were leaning over to touch the ground.  We listened to the storm howling against the patio door as my father, mother, brother and I sat at the kitchen table to have our first cup of morning coffee. Suddenly, my father’s scanner began to scream, a blaring tone which we all instantly recognized. All emergency personnel were needed immediately. The water in southeast Roanoke had risen out of its creek banks, threatening to trap local citizens in their homes.  For the first time in my life, my father turned to me and said, “we could use some extra hands today, feel like hanging out with your dad?” I remember my heart beginning to race, anticipation flooding through my body. For once, I felt needed, and in that instant, I was an adult capable of standing side-by-side with my dad.[AC4] 

That day, I learned how much help my father provided for our community, and I had the satisfaction of assisting him, helping others in the face of danger. We responded to two calls together that day. The first was for an animal chained up in the back yard of a home. My father ordered me to stay close, so we both ran to the back of the house, where we found a black Labrador Retriever puppy. He was soaked and shivering from the bitterly cold rain, crying out for help.  As we were releasing him from his chain, animal control showed up to retrieve the scared little puppy. His gratefulness at being rescued was obvious as he surrendered his tired, lifeless body, over to his hero. Upon returning to the truck, we could hear a woman yelling for help in the distance. Her house was about 10 feet lower than the road, so the water was already filling up her home. She was a tiny, frail, elderly woman, standing on her front porch wearing nothing but a white, cotton nightgown, waist deep in the cold water. My father ordered me to get a blanket from the truck and to meet him on the road. I ran to the truck and as I glanced behind me, I saw my father running into the raging flood waters. As the water rose, so did my respect for my father, as well as my concern for his safety. Never had I realized that his job could entail such dangerous situations.  In this instant, he was literally putting his safety aside to ensure that others could continue to live. He put his big, muscular arms around her tiny little body, and began to carry her to safety. You could see the veins bulging out of his forehead, as he struggled to take every step. The water was flowing so quickly, each step seeming as if were a mile. He knew that if he were to drop her, she could be swallowed up by the angry, unforgiving water. When they finally reached the road, he sat her gently down, struggling to catch his breath. My father knew that the day had just begun.

By this time, the area was almost completely under water, so I reluctantly started my drive home, while my father continued with the rest of the crew. Their hope was that they could help as many as possible. As I slowly rolled through the deep, murky water, watching broken tree branches float around me, I replayed the events from the last few hours in my mind.  For once in my life, I understood why this job was so important to my father. Twenty-two people would lose their lives that day, but I am certain that number would be significantly higher, had it not been for the efforts of all those brave men and women, working in Fire and Rescue for Vinton and Roanoke on that day. They are all heroes, but my dad will forever be “my hero”.

DEDICATION TO:

My father- Raymond Mack “Tommy” Brooks-Vinton Rescue Squad in VA

My grandfather-Raymond “Tic-tic” Brooks-Vinton Fire Department

To all of the brave men and women who risk their lives every day to assist all of us in need.  God bless you all!

Biography

My name is Theresa Brooks Blevins, born August 22, 1969.  I grew up in Vinton, Va, where my father was a paramedic, and later a cardiac technician in the local rescue squad.  He had become a member when he was around 18 years of age, and was a member for approximately 35 years, before he died of a heart attack on Nov. 5, 1999.  I spent my childhood around the men and women of the Vinton Rescue Squad, and they were all my extended family. I was only 30 years old when he passed away, and I felt he was far too young, but to hear the testimonies from all of the residents of the Town of Vinton, whose lives were touched by his healing hands, I know that he did not waste one moment of the 56 years that he lived.  That is when I realized how lucky I was, to have been able to spend that one day, watching my father do what he did best, help other people. He is not only my hero, but the hero of others as well, and I am forever blessed to have been his daughter.

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