ROANOKE, Va. – Firefighters save lives on the job all the time.
But one Roanoke City firefighter was at the right place at the right time on a Sunday morning.
Now, one local family and the Red Cross call him a hero. Kenny Barton will receive the Firefighter hero award at the annual Celebration of Heroes breakfast.
When the call for help comes in, Barton jumps in the fire truck and is ready to go.
He’s trained in numerous ways to save lives, so even without sirens and a big red truck, Barton knows exactly what to do.
One Sunday morning in January at Lakeside Baptist Church, Barton walked in late to find someone sitting in his normal seat.
“I normally sit there. That was the first time in three years that I've sat on that side of the church,” Barton said.
He found a seat on the left as worship began.
Moments later, over the music streaming from the stage, he heard a mother cry for help.
“She started screaming saying, ‘She’s choking,’ and that’s when I immediately jumped over those two people there and ran right behind her.”
He performed the Heimlich maneuver on the little girl to get a peppermint out.
John Litton describes those frightening moments watching his wife Julie seek help for their daughter Heidi.
“I heard Julie cry out for help and I saw Kenny bolt out of his seat, grab Heidi, gave her the Heimlich maneuver and then was right back to his seat. I mean it was like he came out, did his thing and then went right back, didn't want any attention, didn't want anything,” Litton said.
Kenny says he actually went back to his seat and kept singing the song.
A few minutes later, it hit him what had just happened.
“Honestly, the thing that came to my mind, what are the chances that out of all my years going here, and this Sunday that I show up late, and the seat that I normally sit in is taken, and I go to another side of the church that I've never sat in in my life and that happens,” Curry said.
“It was very cool that he knew what to do, you know? In hindsight, it was amazing how God worked everything out, because most of the time we sit over here, and most of the time Kenny sits on this side, and of course, Julie didn’t know why, she started going out, she doesn’t know why she stopped where she did and cried out right where she did, but it was right beside where Kenny was sitting. It was like God orchestrated everything, so I was thankful for everything and how it happened,” Litton said.
While the whole ordeal is still too painful for Heidi to talk about, her family is grateful for the opportunity to tell Barton he’s a hero and thank him for saving her life.