BAYTOWN, Texas — For the firefighters and EMTs of Station 4 in Baytown it was another normal assignment: rushing to a 911 call to help save someone’s life.
But to the family and neighbors of John McCormick it was it was beyond normal. It helped restore a bit of their faith in humanity and the kindness of strangers.
McCormick, 65, had a history of heart problems – a quadruple bypass more than a decade ago and other lingering health issues. Tuesday afternoon he suffered a heart attack while mowing the yard of his Baytown home. He went inside his house and collapsed where his family called for help.
Engine 4, Medic 4, and Medic 2 responded. EMT’s performed CPR and got a pulse again. And per standard operating procedure, the crew of Engine 4 followed the ambulance to the hospital.
But when they left the hospital to drive back to Station 4, engine driver Luke Bednarek had an idea. Why not go back to the McCormick home and finish mowing his yard for him.
“We’re all fighting over who can push the mower first,” said Station 4 Lt. J.D. Giles.
“I just happened to get off the truck first and grabbed the lawnmower first. We were all fighting over it,” said firefighter Blake Steffenauer.
They took turns behind John McCormick’s lawn mower. They finished the backyard too, locked the garage, put the padlock key in the mailbox, and Giles left a handwritten note to Patsy McCormick that said in part “we felt bad that your husband didn’t get to finish the yard, so we did.”
And they didn’t think it was that big a deal.
“No not at all. Just something to help someone out in the worst time of their life,” said Giles.
“They already got stuff they’ve got going on that’s more important,” added Steffenauer. “Yard work shouldn’t be something they’d have to finish up. So we were happy to come back and take care of that.”
But it was a letter, and a gesture, that made a daughter weep.
“It just showed me that there’s still compassion,” said McCormick’s daughter Jeana Blackford. “That people still do random acts of kindness every day for people that they don’t know.”
This story does not have a happy ending. John McCormick died two days later.
But while the firefighters were mowing his yard, a neighbor secretly took a series of cell phone photographs and posted them to social media. The response has been remarkable.
The picture of that random act of kindness, posted to the City of Baytown Facebook page, is already going viral. The McCormick family is getting calls from as far away as New Zealand.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Patsy McCormick of the firefighter’s gesture. “I just couldn’t believe they took the time to do that.”
“It just speaks to their character,” said son-in-law Dan Blackford. “They say honor is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. That’s a fact,” he said of the firefighters who didn’t know someone captured their gesture on camera. “They were very honorable.”
“This just shows just exactly how special they really are,” said Jeana Blackford who, despite the grief over losing her father wanted to publicly thank the men of Station 4 for showing everyone the impact a single random act of kindness can have. And for showing everyone that going above and beyond the call of duty, whether a firefighter or a civilian in everyday life, often just takes a few more steps.
“I think we all need to do random acts of kindness every day, every day,” she said.
“Thank you. We love you,” added Patsy McCormick.
John McCormick, and Air Force veteran, will be buried with full military honors next week at Houston National Cemetery.