Jesse May, a 9-year-old who attends Charleston Elementary School, became Fire Chief for a Day in Cleveland on July 26, and his life will never be the same.
It was more than the fact Jesse took his appointment as fire chief seriously during those five hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It was more than the fact that grown men, real-life firefighters, treated him with respect and honor — treating him to lunch and escorting him to several fire stations. It was something more. Jesse knew that his grandmother, like a fairy godmother, was behind his wish that came true. Her love for him made this possible and his faith in her was not disappointed.
Jesse’s grandmother, Betty Lou May, said she and her grandson went to the Hope Festival at Tri-State on July 20 where an auction was held. She gladly bought at auction the $45 coupon for her grandson to be Fire Chief for a Day. That’s what grandparents do when they are able — make their grandchildren’s dreams come true.
“My grandmother is one of the greatest people on earth,” Jesse said. “That was the first time I had ever been to a real fire station. I love playing with (toy) fire trucks. I have a full play set. I was surprised that they let me use the water hose and the axe for a few minutes. I also enjoyed going to lunch — to Subway.”
Jesse said he would recommend that other youths become Fire Chief for a Day since it is educational, a fun way to meet firefighters and a great experience for youths wanting to decide on a career. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Jesse said, “A fireman, a scientist and possibly a librarian.”
Although he visited all the fire stations while acting as fire chief, Jesse admitted, “I’d probably prefer Sector 11 to live in because it has a training area. I think I would be better off there.”
His grandmother said she is very proud of the training in good manners that her grandchild has embraced at such a young age. In fact, as acting fire chief, Jesse gave one of the firemen a raise, stating, “It just felt like he deserved one.”
With tears in her eyes, Betty said, “I cannot express how proud I am of him! He’s a good child. He’s obedient. I had three strokes in the summer of 2007, and he has been there to help me. It’s a joy doing things for him because he’s so appreciative. He always says thank you.”
Betty, who has 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, said her life revolves around her grandchildren, but more so with Jesse.
“He comes to Grandma’s every chance he gets,” she said. “I was happy to do this for him. He said that certificate is worth $1,000!”
“It is!” Jesse added. “I mean, we got to go to every sector except Sector 10. I think it was closed. But I didn’t get a chance to see a fire, though. I was hoping to see a fire.”
The fact that there were no fires in Cleveland when Jesse served as Fire Chief for a Day was suddenly no longer the draw. The real fire was right there — burning in his heart and in the heart of his grandmother. They were suddenly keeping each other warm simply by being together. It was a burning love that many grandparents and grandchildren feel, and nothing can put out that fire.