By Niki Herbert. Houston Chronicle
Every weekday Fort Bend County resident Mary Sullivan puts on a Houston firefighter T-shirt and accompanying shorts then heads outside. Physically she runs two miles. Mentally she runs to keep going. There are three children for whom to care. Emotionally she runs because this is the gift her daughter Anne bequeathed to her. That’s priceless.
“She got me running,” Sullivan said. “I couldn’t run two blocks.” But now Sullivan runs Monday through Friday. Before work. Before even thinking about it.
“Running is something she passed on to me,” Sullivan said of Anne. “It has helped me through.” And donning the HFD gear? “I think of my daughter,” Sullivan said. Anne was one of the four firefighters killed in a hotel fire in May. She was 24. Her 25th birthday would have been Dec. 4. But Sullivan has reason to keep going and believing the best comes out of tragedy. The Houston Fire Department created an award in Anne Sullivan’s name to be bestowed upon the graduating cadet who demonstrates “determination” and a “good work ethic.” The announcement of the Anne Sullivan award came at Anne’s memorial service.
The first recipient of the award is Diego Bazan, a Cypress Creek High School grad. When he graduated the night of Dec. 2, Sullivan saw something in Bazan she had seen in her daughter. “He’s got a huge smile,” Sullivan said. “I saw the same look on his face that Anne had when she graduated. ‘I made it. This is what I want to be.’ It is a calling. “It’s a calling Anne never fought and a calling her mom Sullivan gladly accepted.And one Senior Captain Curtis Hill noticed immediately. “The thing that stood out about Anne is she had challenges,” Hill said. “She had a small frame. But her heart was bigger than anyone’s. She never gave up. Size was not her excuse, but her challenge. Ever since I saw her, I have told the other cadets that the most important muscle is the heart.”And Anne had a big heart.”I never recognized that until Anne,” Hill said. “Your will to do the job is very important. If you really aren’t sure you want it, it’s impossible. She touched people in her class. Now she’s going beyond her class (with the award).”Sullivan is appreciative of the gesture and said she will be at every graduation.”It was a lifeline when the announcement was made,” Sullivan said. “We all knew how wonderful Anne was, but Captain Hill ensured others would know by doing this award. It was something we needed at the moment it was announced. You just look for a reason to go on to the next day.”The Sullivan family started a scholarship to raise funds that will aid other women pursuing a career as a firefighter. Sullivan said less than 3 percent of firefighters in Houston are women.Anne’s childhood friend and soccer teammate Victoria Arevalo opened the doors to her Stafford gym The Simply Fit A Studio for Women in November to help raise funds for the cause. The effort brought in $5,000.”The studio is about empowering women, and the scholarship is for helping women become firefighters,” Arevalo said. “We wanted to tie the two together.”I felt I could help the family. Anne was motivated, determined and possessed a lot of energy. If she put her mind to something, she was going to accomplish it.”Visit the Greater Houston Community Foundation website at www.ghcf.org for more information about the scholarship fund.Anne graduated from the Certified Firefighter/EMT Fast Track, which is an 11-week class, in April – a month before the deadly fire.Prior to that, she spent four years as a volunteer firefighter in Alief and in Stafford.When Anne was not working 12-hour shifts as a volunteer firefighter, she would join her mom as a crossing guard at schools in Fort Bend County.”We talked about everything,” Sullivan said. “We are a very close Irish Catholic family. But the kids are diverse. Anne is the most diverse. She was always athletic. She was always involved. Firefighting is what she loved to do. It was the only thing she wanted to do.”Anne’s older brother, Will, is a teacher. Anne’s younger sister, Kate, studies art at the University of Houston. The youngest Sullivan, Tom, is a psychology major at the University of Texas.Anne was the soccer player and the cross country runner. During her senior year at Dulles High School, Anne was named the female athlete of the year because she embodied the qualities athletes respect in each other.”She worked the hardest,” Sullivan said. “She never missed a practice. That carried over into her training. She never gave up. She worked as hard as you can. She was going to be there for her teammates and her fellow cadets.”
And somehow Anne is still there for Sullivan. As Sullivan runs, she hears a constant voice in her head.”Come on, Mom,” Anne’s voice echoes in Sullivan’s head. “Keep going.”
And Sullivan does.
Credit: Houston Chronicle Article Link