GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A heartbreaking day in the life of a teenage girl from Wilkes County may help the city of Greensboro for years to come.
On Valentine’s Day 2015, Kaitlyn Pierce lost her father in a car crash just a few minutes from their Purlear home on Old Highway 60. Rather than wallow in the loss though, she was overwhelmed by the comfort and support shown by the Miller’s Creek Fire Department responding to her father’s accident.
It was the spark she needed to push her into the Greensboro Fire Department training program.
“It really shows me anything can happen at any time,” said Pierce. “You can be right in front of your house and have an accident. You can be one mile up the road -- you're just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The 2014 West Wilkes High School graduate considered her father her biggest fan even if it was just volleyball or softball games he was there for.
“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” said Pierce. “I still don't completely understand why I had to lose my dad but I definitely think I've made the right choices since then and its put me on the path I need to be on.”
That path is a grueling one by anyone’s standards. Just ask fellow trainee Terros Motley, 31, who thought he was in shape until the first day of training.
“I got a reality check that first day,” said Motley. “We ran the tower, did wall sits; it was a complete body workout in which we were working out the core. If you have a strong core the rest of you is strong.”
Motely and Pierce are two of 19 recruits that have made it through nine weeks of training. The class started with 23 students and may be whittled down even further if students aren’t able to keep up mentally or physically.
“You have to know everything so you can protect yourself, your team and all the citizens you're out there protecting,” said Pierce.
Pierce said for her it’s not about just protecting lives from danger but helping people cope in the wake of tragedy.
“A year ago I definitely did not see myself here but now that I'm here I wouldn't change it for anything,” said Pierce. “I just want to keep excelling and doing the best I can.”
The firefighter trainees won’t earn their badge and spot on the fire department until June 23, 2016. Until then, Pierce and others will be learning how to do the job and forging a lasting bond.
“It’s one of the best feelings I've had in a very long time,” said Pierce. “We really have a feeling of family and that means the world to me.”