Nineteen-year-old Dan Turner is a freshman at Christendom College with more than the average amount of responsibility for a student his age. As a part-time volunteer fireman and full-time student, Turner is always on the job, spending his free time embracing what he calls his “special opportunity to go above and beyond by helping people on what could potentially be their worst day.”
Since college degrees are becoming increasingly sought-after in potential firemen, Turner decided that investing in a Christendom education would not only improve his professional resume, but also provide him with what he called “an essential spiritual formation.”
Becoming a fireman has been Turner’s dream since childhood. His family’s experience with emergency response teams coming to his house inspired him. Though the issues were minor, he says that the emergency responders impressed him.
“In my eyes, they saved my Dad,” Turner says. “Ever since then, I have wanted to be a fireman.”
The example of an older cousin, who is a fireman, helped solidify Turner’s ambition, and, at 16, he began training to become a fireman. He quickly learned the demands of the job, learning how the various instruments work, and the most efficient ways to respond to various emergencies—ranging from medical calls to house fires.
Turner says that one of the most difficult things to learn is how to remain calm, keep his emotions in check, and be the reassuring presence in the midst of stressful circumstances.
“At some point, we will all deal with life or death situations,” Turner says. “You never quite know what could happen. You have to put fear on the back burner and just do what you know and what you’ve been trained to do, because fear can be crippling. They called you because they’re scared, so you have to be the steady and calm for them in that situation.”
Handling the demands of such a high-pressure position is not easy, and as a volunteer, Turner puts his life on the line for others every day without any compensation, save knowing that he is making people’s lives easier by being their hero for a day. He currently volunteers with the Shenandoah Shores Volunteer Fire Department, whose firehouse is located down the road from Christendom’s campus.
Such a job requires discipline, which Turner truly feels Christendom has helped him cultivate on a new level. In contrast to his prior experience in public schools, Christendom’s curriculum requires a lot more attention, because there is so much knowledge to digest.
“I learned more last semester than I did through my four years of high school,” Turner quips. “The amount of work has helped change my attitude for the better. I’ve had to learn how to buckle down, stick to my work, and get it done. It has been a really good lesson in self-discipline.”
As the spring semester comes to a close, Turner can be found studying hard and enjoying the campus life of a college student—with radio on, in case of emergencies. He plans to become an EMT in the next couple of years, and to turn this volunteer position into a full-time job after graduation—earning the title of Fire Chief. But for now the humble fireman can be found attending classes, writing papers, and having fun with friends, ready at a moment’s notice to place his love for others above himself, and once again show that he truly is an everyday hero.