Daughter of Late Battalion Chief Gets Heartwarming Escort to 1st Day of School


School is tough for kids. We tend to forget that as we age, but the very act of walking down locker-lined halls come mid-August can strike fear into young hearts.

Old friends and new rivalries, unfamiliar subjects and stern teachers, pop-culture pressures and social anxiety — all of these make education intimidating. That’s why it helps to have parents by your side.

But what happens when a mother or father can’t be there? What do you do if illness or death has robbed a child of that stalwart presence?

In the best situations, the community steps in to help. Just consider the graciousness of others when a son or daughter of a fallen officer or first responder has to head off for school.

In 2016, four-year-old Jackson Scherlen of Amarillo, Texas, was about to start Pre-K. Yet his father couldn’t be there for the hallowed event.

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WABC reported that the police officer had perished two weeks prior after a car crash. So dozens of his law-enforcement comrades stepped in, lining the streets and each hugging young Jackson as he made his way to school.

Nine-year-old Amy Hill and her five-year-old brother Evan also faced a similar situation in 2016. The West Manheim Township, Pennsylvania, kids had lost their firefighter father Chris to brain cancer. (Interestingly, firefighters contract brain cancer 60 percent more often than the general population.)

So firefighter from Pennsylvania’s Prince George’s and Baltimore counties decided to make the first day of school one to remember. They ferried the two children to class on a firetruck and even bought them breakfast at McDonald’s.

“They were jumping up and down,” Prince George’s County Fire Department Cpt. John Wiseman told The Evening Sun. “They loved it.”

The daughter of Gilbert, Arizona, resident and Battalion Chief for the Gilbert Fire Fighters got an even more impressive reception. KSAZ reported that James Nelson suffered from a brain aneurysm at the end of July.

According to ABC15 Arizona, he passed away after spending about a week in ICU. “It is with a heavy heart we want to inform the community that Battalion Chief James Nelson passed away today,” the Gilbert Firefighters’ Union wrote on its Facebook page.

“Rest easy, James. When the alarm sounds today, we will respond with the same excellence in service you always commanded.”

The loss left his daughter heading off for her first day of high school without the presence of her dad. But the Gilbert firefighters weren’t willing to let her go alone.

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On August 2, hundreds of police and firefighters lined the streets near Campo Verde High School. So many came that news crews needed to video from a helicopter to capture them all.

They delivered her in a white fire truck. And once she was on the grounds, several engulfed her in bear hugs.

It’s exactly the kind of affection a grieving teen needs. No one can remove all of the pain from a person’s life, but together we can help assuage it.

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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