Accident crushed firefighter’s body, not his spirit

By Brendan Milewski

Special to CNN

Editor’s note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle — injury, illness or other hardship — they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. This week we introduce you to Brendan Milewski, who bravely served in the Detroit Fire Department for over a decade before one act of arson ended his career and changed his life forever.

When people find out you’re a firefighter, the first question they ask is: “What made you join the fire service?”

This is typically followed by: “My dad, grandpa, or uncle was on the job.”

That wasn’t the case for me. Instead, interest in a career in public safety came in waves throughout my adolescence. I assure you, I am a first and last generation firefighter.

It first started at age 13, when I was spending the night at a friend’s house in the neighborhood where I grew up. After seeing an ambulance race down the street, we went outside to find the house two doors down on fire. The closest fire company hadn’t arrived yet.

I had a front-row seat to the entire scene. I heard the sirens, smelled the smoke, saw the rigs arrive, and watched as these courageous men entered the house and pulled three people out of the fire.

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