None of these roles prepared Jeff for the life-changing event he faced in sub-freezing temperatures when a neighbor’s house exploded. But he rose to the challenge.
It was 4:20 a.m. and 20 degrees outside. Jeff was restless and couldn’t sleep so he found a sports game on TV. When he heard a boom shake the ceiling, he thought it was one of his kids falling out of bed upstairs. Then he saw a glow in the window. Shoeless, he ran outside and saw a neighbor looking toward a fire down the street. “Is anybody in there?” he yelled. “Yeah,” came the reply. “A lady is screaming that her son is inside.” Jeff ran back in his house, grabbed his shoes and ran.
“I got there about the same time as another neighbor. There were some people standing around watching; the whole house was on fire. This lady was screaming about her son. Another guy and I saw him lying in the doorway. We ran up and pulled him away from the flames.”
The flames were so close Jeff could touch them. “I just blocked out the danger because I could tell he was really hurt. I lost my mom a few years ago so I know what it’s like to lose someone you love. I didn’t want his mother to go through that.”
Jeff and the neighbor he never met before dragged the man to a spot where paramedics could begin working on him. At the time, the victim was alert and talking. “I thought he would be all right,” Jeff said. A few days later the man died from his injuries.
“I felt terrible when he died. I saw his family a couple of days after his death, and they were grateful that we had given them a chance to say good-bye. That night and every night since have made me love my family even more. My little girl says, ‘Dad, I feel so much safer with you around.’”
At 27, Jeff, who is skilled in construction trades, is starting over and determined to land a dream job as a CNC machine programmer for a local manufacturer. “Construction work is good work, but it’s seasonal and hasn’t been very stable in the last few years. I want something that will enable me to provide better for my family.”
Dee Wright, coordinator of Gateway’s Computerized Machining and Manufacturing program, put Jeff on track to become a machinist. “I stepped in so blind,” Jeff said, “and Gateway broke it down step by step. Now I’m a Dean’s List student. Gateway is a great school. I am becoming more because of Gateway.”
To learn more about how you can be more, visit the Gateway Admissions office.