Cloe Dance, an 82-year-old Gulfport resident, was ready for bed when she unknowingly pressed her medical alert button, sending a team of first responders flying to the scene on Thursday, July 26 at 11 p.m.
While she laid in bed with her hearing aid turned off and her cellphone stored away, three Gulfport Firemen knocked on her door. Hearing no reply, the first responders came in through an unlocked window.
Seeing the harsh glow of a flashlight coming down the hallway into her bedroom startled Dance, who got out of bed, spying the first responders in her hallway.
“I screamed with every fiber in my being, and I really scared the tar out of them,” said Dance. “There were three men in my house, so you can imagine.”
Fireman Timothy Burton had gotten stuck entering the window, and the sight of someone half in the house was terrifying.
“Most of the time we have to break in, and luckily the window was open,” said Lieutenant Rene Fernandez. “But it was a small window.”
Burton, Fernandez and Fireman Christopher Mathis then checked in with the system, Valued Relationships Inc., or VRI.
“Once we got her to calm down we thought she was the sweetest lady,” said Fernandez. “We call her ‘our station grandma.’”
It was the following Wednesday, July 31, that Dance decided to bring a few sweet treats to the Gulfport Fire Department. Hoping to express her gratitude, Dance caught fireman Tim Burton cooking hamburgers at the station.
“I appreciate them, I was so appreciative and thankful,” said Dance. “I asked them If I could pray for them.”
After hearing that she had never been in a firetruck before, the three helped Dance into the big red truck, resulting in a few photo opportunities with the Gulfport local in a lieutenant helmet.
Coincidentally, Dance and the firemen have seen each other on the street since.
Shortly after the fiasco, Dance saw a familiar firetruck in a parking lot on her way home.
“I thought, ‘I wonder if these are my boys?’” said Dance.
“They hugged me and called me grandma,” Dance said. “Now I’m grandma.”
Since, Dance has installed a system that amplifies the sound of the doorbell and uses flashing lights to signal when someone is there.
“Every time I see a firetruck I think of them,” said Dance. “I feel like I’m part of the family.”