Into the Fire

It’s taken me a month to muster up the courage to write down what took place at the conclusion of our BeastSide track workout in Greer, S.C., on 7/9/14.

Two young men — 16 and 17 years old — lost their lives that morning, and a third (17 years old) remains in a medically induced coma with severe burns a month later. Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families!

We were finishing up our workout and had just begun the COT when we heard a loud crash.  We looked around, unable to determine what had happened or how far away it had taken place..

Even as we continued with the COT, we saw a plume of smoke rising over some nearby trees. Not a word was said — every man ran from the track to their vehicles. Driving toward the smoke, we turned toward the entrance of Riverside Middle School and saw a single vehicle on fire after crashing into a tree.

My memories are blurred somewhat by the chaos and the speed with which everything unfolded, but we saw that one of the car’s passengers had gotten out and was lying on the ground. We got him into the back of a truck and moved him away from the burning car.

The next thing we heard was a lady shouting that there was someone on the other side of the vehicle. A second young man was visible in the front seat of the car, surrounded by flames.

A law enforcement officer had arrived at the scene and taken charge. He called for a shirt and one of the pax pulled the shirt off his back. One of our own, Johnny5, yelled out the same thing and was given another guy’s shirt.

Johnny5 then plunged into the “burn zone” to try to pull the young man from the vehicle.  His first try was unsuccessful, but as we watched he stepped out, took a deep breath and plunged back in. This time, he was able to get a firm enough grasp to begin pulling the individual out. He, three other guys and the officer were able to pull the young man away from the burning vehicle.

Eleven of us posted that morning for that morning’s workout: Johnny5, Bartman, Snowden, Double00, Longbottom, Earthmover, GoldenSombrero, Holla, Alfred, Sherpa, Hardhat. And while I have singled our Johnny5, every man was part of a group effort to respond to a terrible tragedy.

  • Loving: The pax surrounded the young man who would prove to be the sole survivor of the wreck, showing love and compassion as he lay critically burned. Surrounded by F3 guys, he heard words of encouragement: “You’re going to be OK” “Hang in there, buddy.” “Stay with us.” “They’re coming soon.” Like the best F3 leaders, who circle back to encourage and motivate a “6” who is struggling at the rear of a workout, these guys surrounded the young man and gave him their 100% focus until EMS arrived, so that he would not be alone in his fight to live.
  • Moving: Watching Johnny5 literally put his life on the line to try to save someone else was one of the most humbling things I have ever witnessed. As Longbottom wrote in his backblast of that day,  “I am honored to say that I am among men that I hope to emulate.”
  • Praying: Johnny5 has said that he was most moved that day by watching the pax pray. As he told me, he can be “quick to act and slow to pray,” but was powerfully affected by watching a group of men spring into action through prayer that morning.

July 9th was a day where the PAX showed that F3 is more than just a workout — it’s preparation for the hard choices life sometimes demands that we make in an instant. It wasn’t just Johnny5 who moved with certainty and purpose that morning, but the entire group. As Longbottom wrote in his backblast, “More than ever, it was a pleasure to lead this group of men in a workout, but a blessing to see them in action when it truly matters!”

You never know when one of those “hard choices” will present itself; but if we are consistently posting and are witnessing firsthand the love, movement and prayer from within the pax, then our communities will be better off because of it.


As a final footnote, I should add that the officer who was first on the scene that morning has since started posting to SW workouts. His F3 name is Boss Hogg.

18 Replies to “Into the Fire”

  1. Wow.
    It occurs to me that our EQV (Esse Quam Videri) moments come at us all day long. They will challenge us in different ways, right up to placing our lives on the line for another. The Swamp Rabbits were EQV ready. Pondering how the Swamp Rabbits were EQV ready prompted me to look up the state motto for our brothers to the south. Dum Spiro Spero. “While I breathe, I hope”. EQV. DSS. Aye. BZ.

    1. Swamp Rabbit Pax – so proud of you guys. Thank you for your bravery and what you did to help others that day, and I hope to meet all of you someday in person.

  2. Sad. Powerful. Life certainly presents ridiculous circumstances and it’s humbling to read of Johnny5’s heroics and the rest of the pax positive actions that fateful morning. we never know when we will be called. Into THE moment, but lord willing, we will be ready.

  3. Thanks for sharing Bartman. When I heard the news later that day, I was unable to think of anything else. Talk about a character moment. I’m so proud to be associated with these guys.

    BTW, one of the firemen that responded that day has also started posting. His F3 name is Hook and Ladder.

  4. Wow – I don’t know any of you personally, but I am proud to call you my Brothers! I almost missed this story and am glad it found it’s way to me. Your courage and compassion have warmed my heart today – and moistened my eyes a good bit.

  5. I have not met any of you guys before, but I hope to one day so I can shake your hands. Y’all were the definition of courage that day. All too many times I’ve seen people get “vapor locked” and not react to a serious situation. Not the case with you guys. Way to step up and take action.

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