LIMA — The paths of Hellen Douglas and Matt Hammons just seem to keep crossing. And that’s fine with them both.
They first met after Hammons, a firefighter with the Lima Fire Department, risked his own life to save that of Douglas’ grandson, Landyn, by retrieving the youngster from the second floor of a burning building in November 2018.
They met again at a ceremony the following April when State Fire Marshal Jeff Hussey presented Hammons with an Ohio State Fire Marshal Heroism Award.
There have been more meetings, including last month when the firefighter showed up at Landyn’s eighth birthday party. Their most recent meeting came Tuesday when Hammons surprised Douglas at a meeting of the Lima Kiwanis Club.
Douglas was on hand in her role as executive director of Family Promise, a faith-based local organization who intervenes to get homeless families off the streets of Lima, to accept a check from the Kiwanis Club. She was one of only a handful of people at the meeting who did not know there was a surprise waiting for her.
When Hammons walked through the door, accompanied by fellow firefighter Shawn Allguire, Douglas’ eyes began to water as the pair embraced.
Kiwanis Club members who didn’t know the back-story got a quick refresher. In November 2018 Hammons, known around the firehouse as “Reggie,” begged his superior officer to be allowed to enter the fully-engulfed second story of a burning building after hearing a child crying for help.
What happened next was a series of life-changing and life-saving events. Hammons climbed the stairs to the second level of the burning home and found 6-year-old Landyn Douglas in the hallway. Intense heat kept the firefighter from carrying the child back down the stairwell, so he located a window and passed Landyn, who by now was unresponsive, out the window to a fellow firefighter and into safe hands.
After suffering burns over more than 50% of his body in the fire, Landyn is “doing great” these days, his grandmother said.
Douglas said that whenever Landyn sees Hammons “he makes a bee-line towards him and throws his arms around him.”
It’s a bond certain to last a lifetime.