LANCASTER COUNTY, PA — A firefighter with the Manheim Fire Department was reunited with the 5-year-old boy he helped soothe after a school bus accident last month Monday, according to WPMT.
When he and other members of his fire department were assisting at the scene of the Nov. 22 crash, Lt. Andy Kirchner noticed Jojo Colon was in distress, resisting attempts to get him to an ambulance to be checked.
“Once the ambulance arrived, there’s Jojo kinda off with the medic,” Kirchner said. “He was just going around in circles with her. When she was holding his hand, he didn’t want to go where she wanted to lead him.”
Kirchner went over to try and console him, using distractions and getting on his level. That’s when the viral picture was snapped by Assistant Fire Chief Duane Ober. Kirchner took the boy a few yards away from the scene and knelt in front of him, pointing out different vehicles and chatting with the boy until he calmed down.
“He was pretty steadfast,” Kirchner said. “Pretty much came around and just squeezed my cheeks and put his nose to mine. And he backed away and was like, ‘okay!’ and we went back to pointing out firetrucks.”
There aren’t enough words to explain what the gesture meant for Jojo’s mom.
“I started crying immediately,” Jojo’s mother, Samantha Colon, said. “I was emotional. And I felt relieved that someone was there for my son when I couldn’t be.”
Andy said he knew right away something was wrong.
“Once I got closer then I kinda knew there was something different,” Kirchner said. “Just like with my son.”
His 3-year-old, Jude, recently diagnosed with high-functioning autism.
“He does not like the change in routine,” Kirchner said. “So that was pretty easy to pick up, that he was not going to go in that ambulance.”
The reunion was more than a tour of the fire department; a new lesson learned.
“He now has a relationship with understanding what a firefighter is,” Colon said. “That they are there to help you.”
But perhaps more importantly, a new friend.
Since the picture was posted, there’s been a huge conversation about training for first responders when it comes to handling people who have special needs. In fact, many people have asked Kirchner for tips and guidance. He and the entire fire department hope there will be training for this kind of situation in the future.