Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, but for two young children and their mother, it could have been a time of unimaginable tragedy. However, thanks to the bravery and selflessness of four Stamford firefighters, the holiday season turned into a true Christmas miracle. Lieutenant Trevor Roach, Firefighter Michael Zara, Firefighter Thomas Gloerson, and Firefighter Mark Shannon risked their lives to rescue 14-month-old Aaron Pharr and 3-year-old Ashley Grant from a devastating fire just days before Christmas in 1993. Their extraordinary courage and unwavering commitment to saving lives earned them the department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
The fateful day was December 13, 1993, when a raging fire broke out in an apartment in the Connecticut Avenue area of Stamford, leaving the young children trapped inside. Stamford police arrived first on the scene but were unable to enter the building due to the intense fire conditions. The desperate cries of the children echoed through the scene, making it an agonizing race against time for the rescue crew.
The Medal of Valor is a prestigious award given to firefighters who demonstrate exceptional courage and bravery in life-threatening situations to save the lives of others. In this case, Lieutenant Trevor Roach, Firefighter Michael Zara, Firefighter Thomas Gloerson, and Firefighter Mark Shannon demonstrated their extraordinary dedication to their duty and their community by risking everything to rescue the helpless children.
Chief Ron Graner, head of the fire department, expressed his immense pride in the heroic actions of the firefighters. “They were crawling under the flames and through the smoke with zero visibility. I am very proud of them,” Chief Graner stated, highlighting the immense challenges these heroes faced to save the children.
The Medal of Valor is not an award given out lightly. In fact, it was only the fifth time in the department’s history that this honor was bestowed upon its members. This underscores the exceptional nature of the rescue and the immense bravery displayed by these four individuals. Their actions serve as a testament to the profound commitment and dedication firefighters exhibit to protect their communities.
As the firefighters entered the building, they split into two teams, determined to find the children despite the lack of water on the fire. The conditions were perilous, with flames and smoke engulfing the surroundings. But these brave souls pressed on, driven by the hope of rescuing the innocent lives trapped inside.
Despite the life-threatening circumstances, the firefighters located young Ashley Grant first, unconscious in her bedroom, clutching onto a Barney comforter. Shortly after, they discovered her brother Aaron, also unconscious. Their swift and fearless actions in the face of danger saved the lives of these innocent children.
The heroic firefighters’ efforts did not go unnoticed. Yolanda DePina, the children’s mother, expressed her heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for their courageous act. “Without them, my kids wouldn’t be alive today,” she said, her voice filled with emotion. The rescue not only saved the lives of two innocent children but also ensured that their family could celebrate Christmas together, a gift beyond measure.
In a world where heroes often go unnoticed, the story of Lieutenant Trevor Roach, Firefighter Michael Zara, Firefighter Thomas Gloerson, and Firefighter Mark Shannon shines as a beacon of hope and bravery. Their actions not only earned them the Medal of Valor but also warmed the hearts of a grateful community during the Christmas season. Their courage reminds us that selfless acts of heroism can bring light to even the darkest of times. Let us remember and honor the sacrifices made by brave firefighters across the nation and first responders who dedicate their lives to saving others.