It was Oct. 23, 2018.
Kokomo resident Tarita Brown was on her way to do a little shopping before stopping by her church to prepare for an upcoming community meal.
But that all changed shortly after noon, when Brown was involved in a multi-vehicle crash near the intersection of Park Road and Ind. 26.
Having to be extricated from her vehicle and then airlifted from the scene, Brown said she doesn’t remember much about the actual incident.
But she remembered the first responders.
And though she didn’t know their names at the time, she said she always wanted to personally thank those men and women for saving her life that day.
Flash forward to this past Monday at the Mayor’s Prayer & Action Breakfast held at UAW Local 685.
Brown’s husband, Wendell, pastor of Refreshing Springs Church of God in Christ, was there that day to simply deliver a prayer.
Little did Tarita Brown know at the time, one of her own prayers was soon to be answered.
“I remember Wendell calling and saying, ‘Oh my God, you’ll never guess what happened,’” Tarita Brown said.
It turns out that newly appointed Kokomo Fire Department Chief Chris Frazier was also in attendance during the breakfast, and Wendell struck up a conversation with him after learning the chief was praying over the first responders.
“Wendell told him [Frazier] that I was in an accident on Oct. 23, 2018, and he remembered,” Tarita said.
In fact, Frazier was even there that day, Wendell Brown learned.
And it just so happened that two other firefighters also there that day – Jeff Cooper and Kevin Witt – were still on staff at KFD and both working this past Tuesday.
So arrangements were quickly made for the four to meet up once again, this time at the station on Center Road, so that Tarita Brown could finally meet the ones who helped save her life.
“Going there, my stomach was just in butterflies because I really owe them,” she noted. “It was hard, but at the same time, I was thankful because I knew I was going to meet a group of people who cared about me and didn’t even know me. … And I even thanked them for going to school and learning what they learned that helped me.
“I could have died had it not been for them,” she continued. “You always have to thank and be grateful to people for what they’ve done for you. … I just wanted to let them know to not stop what they’re doing. … They see things a lot worse than what happened to me, and those people sometimes don’t get a chance to come back and say thanks.”
And while the word “hero” can often be overused, Tarita Brown said the men and women who helped save her life that day will forever be absolute heroes in her book.
“Those men saved my day,” she said, noting that she wants to meet the medics who helped as well. “Actually, they didn’t just save my day. They saved my days, with an s. Saving that one day has enabled me to live even more days. So they are heroes to me. … And I just feel like they were appointed at that time for me. God knew he needed this one, this one, this one and this one. And he knew they were needed to come and save me on that day. I owe God my life, but I owe them too.”
It’s not often that firefighters and other first responders see the end result of an incident, Witt said, especially a successful one.
So when one is standing right in front of you and reaching out for a hug, it’s humbling.
“It does feel good anytime you get appreciated,” he said. “It lifts your spirits knowing that people out there care. It feels good.”
Even if it is just another part of the job, Frazier noted.
“If you walked in a room of firefighters and asked them who in there was a hero, no one would raise their hands,” he said. “But if you walked in a group in the public and asked them the same question about a group of firefighters, they would probably all raise their hands and say absolutely they are heroes.
“I felt very honored and humbled that it was important for her that she wanted to come see us and say thank you,” Frazier continued. “But we also just take it in stride because it’s just part of our job. We’ve been put in a situation to help people, and it’s just the nature of what we do.”