My father owned a business sandblasting and repairing water towers. It’s a small, but competitive industry where everyone knows everyone.
Many years ago, my father received a call in the middle of the night. A competitor’s crewman had been painting the inside of a water tower and passed out from the fumes. The competitor was based out-of-state and asked my father for help because the other crewman refused to go back into the tower. My father, a married man with six young children, agreed without hesitation.
The location of the water tower was a two-hour drive away, and time was critical. The longer the crewman stayed trapped among the fumes, the greater chance he had of suffering brain damage or even dying. In fact, no one knew if this man was dead or alive.
My father called the Air-Life Rescue at a local army base. They refused, saying that they were limited to a 30-mile radius. Frustrated, my father prepared to drive to the water tower when the Air-Life Rescue called and agreed to fly him to the helpless man (displaying their own act of chivalry). He drove to the base and was transported within 30 minutes.
In the meantime, the other crewman had agreed to climb the water tower and wait for the helicopter to drop a heavy metal hook into the water tank so he could attach it to the unconscious man. Immediately, another problem presented itself. The helicopter’s propeller generated high winds and if the metal hook hit the freshly-painted water tower, the paint fumes that had caused the crewman to become unconscious would ignite.
The only option was for the helicopter to lower the hook — and my father — into the water tower to ensure that metal did not strike metal.
I’ll never forget my father’s courage. He could have easily said “no” to such a request, but he saved a stranger’s life that night and was home to wake his children in the morning. I’m honored to call Gordon C. Allen my father and my hero.
— Robin Allen, Texas
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