Derek Bart (DB): It was a cold, windy night and the wind knocked the power out, and so they were using candles to see. And they went to bed.
When we got there, the room I went to was fully involved with the fire. So, OK, if anybody’s in here, they’re unsurvivable. But, I checked the next bedroom, which had bunk beds. So, ‘OK, children. Kids like to hide in the closet. They hide under the beds. They hide in the bathtub.’ So, I looked across the hallway and in a bathtub, I see this young girl— her name is Myeshia. And I noticed that her face and hands are burned.
So, I ran there, I grab her, throw her over my shoulders, go downstairs. And it’s one of those scenes where you just say, ‘God, you know, please get me out of here.’ You know, it’s horrible. I considered going to the hospital, but it was too emotional. So, I didn’t go. But for years, I always wondered how Myeshia was.
Well, 12 years later, I found myself in Walmart, and this girl walks by me. Her face and hands had obviously been burned. She has a name tag that says, ‘Myeshia.’
She says, ‘Hi, how may I help you?’ I say, ‘If I get too personal, please stop me. But, February, 1993, I went on a fire and I pulled out a little girl.’ And she starts crying and I’m crying. And she says, ‘Oh my God, that’s me.’
Host: Shortly after this recording, Derek found out he’d been misdiagnosed and was going to live. So he came back to sit down for another StoryCorps conversation, this time with Myeshia Oates.
Myeshia Oates (MO): You actually remembered me, my name, and I was shocked.
Because out of all the thousands of people throughout your career, you still thought about me. I was just curious to know, like, why me?
DB: In the fire service, you see a lot of tragedy. And the people that are alive today, you always think about ‘em. And you always want to know if they’re OK.
MO: You know, of course, I had some health issues, but I’m OK.
DB: You know, the image I have of you was somebody that was just determined to fight, to make it. I want you to know that you’ve carried me through some tough times. For that, I’m forever grateful.
MO: I appreciate being able to be a part of that.
MO: It amazes me— just to know that the memory from 30 years ago is still with you, and that means a lot.
DB: You know, it was a brief moment that you and I had our encounter back in 1993, but I hope you always remember how valued you are, and that people care about you. MO: I thank you and I thank God every day. I cherish this.