Graduates have to pursue their own dreams

I had not thought of it in years — the doorbell ringing, swinging the front door open, seeing standing there a soot-smeared kid in a big fire helmet, dirty canvas firelighter coat, pointing a garden hose at me — "Did someone here call the fire department?" I burst into tears! This is our little girl — it can't be true.

Just home from a drill at the fire department, she grinned, and I thought of the money spent at the orthodontist and the possibility of her teeth getting knocked out. I thought of one of our daughters having become a registered nurse and one a drama teacher and wished Sara would also choose a more conventional profession.

Ever since Sara had become enamored of the TV series "Emergency," she had wanted to be a firefighter "to help people." I brushed it off. But there was that 16-year-old, pulling her sled piled with rocks and climbing ropes to gain strength, running, then later working as a volunteer firefighter at Jackson County Fire District 5 in Talent. Dared I tell anyone?

But she worked so hard we had to support her, especially when she earned her associate fire science degree at Rogue Community College. I guessed we'd not be able to change her mind.

What triggered all these memories was the statement Sara made the other day: "Hey, Mom, did you realize it is 30 years on May 25th that I was hired as Oregon's first female firefighter (full time, paid)! It was an historic event. I helped make history!"

No, I hadn't realized it had been 30 years. Had it changed history? I suppose so, but to a very small degree. It is really still "a man's world" in most states.

After 17 years as a firefighter, most of them at South Lane County Fire Department in Cottage Grove, Sara decided to try a new challenge and went into nurse's training, and has been serving humanity as a respected and appreciated registered nurse. She doesn't wear the conventional white uniform and starched cap like her grandmother and sister did, but to me it's still a better job for our "little girl."

But I have to admire her for setting a goal for her dreams and working to attain it, just like the song she wrote at that time, "I've Got a Goal," which she sang at the National Fire Academy in Maryland at graduation. She also became a fire prevention technician and a public education specialist, and I think of all the graduates this June and their proud parents. I'm hoping those parents will support and encourage them to set goals and follow their own dreams.

There is a plaque on the wall in the Talent Fire Department stating the outcome of that dream. When Sara visited there, a young volunteer said, "You're Sara Smith? You're a legend around here!"

My daughter's dream, not mine for her, was to be a firefighter — and she did it.

History says so. It must be true!

Former Medford resident Norma Howard Moore lives in Cottage Grove.

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