Injured New Haven firefighter focused on his mother
Pam McLoughlin, New Haven Register, Conn.
May 14–Critically injured New Haven firefighter Lt. Samod “Nuke” Rankins gave his mother “marching orders” with a pen and pad from his hospital room Thursday, said close friend, retired firefighter Garry Tinney.
Any kind of orders from Rankins are welcome, as many feared he might not survive.
“His mind is working great – he gave his mom her marching orders,” about who he wanted to visit him in the hospital, said Tinney, who is vice-president of the International Association of Black Firefighters. “He’s being Nuke.”
“Being Nuke” is a high compliment, as the community loves him and the prayer hands were up in abundance for his recovery, after he was brought to Bridgeport Hospital following a fire on Valley Street in New Haven Wednesday during which Firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr. died.
Aside from fighting fires, Rankins works tirelessly to help the homeless, the school children, the hungry and the marginalized as a champion of civil rights and fairness within the ranks and even to aspiring firefighters who want to get hired, those who know him say.
“He’s got a phenomenal soul. He has a heart of gold…he’s a saint,” Tinney said. “He’s touched lives – black, white, Hispanic. He’s found a way to make a difference.”
As if the New Haven community’s prayers had been answered, Rankins also began breathing on his own Thursday and gave fellow firefighters visiting virtually from another room hand signals to indicate he’s good.
Rankins, who is also clear-headed and functioning well, Tinney said – although not recovered – was critically injured Wednesday in a 12:45 a.m. fire in the 100 block of Valley Street.
One of the firefighters on scene, Torres – a close friend of Rankins – died fighting the fire and Rankins was emotionally distraught Thursday to learn of his death.
Rankins, a New Haven resident, has been a firefighter for little more than three years and rose through the ranks quickly.
Doctors are telling Rankins not to talk, as his throat and lungs are healing, and so he is not, Tinney said. He also appeared to be breathing on his own after they took a tube out Thursday, Tinney said.
“He’s determined and that’s his spirit,” Tinney said.
When Rankins’ mom, Novella Guiont, saw him at the hospital the morning of the fire as a he was about to be intubated, he told her, “If I don’t make it, remember that I love you,” she said, through Tinney. He added, “Mom, you know you’re my No. 1 girl.”
Rankins, who comes from a close-knit family of church goers, was so worried about his mother after he was injured that once he was at the hospital on a stretcher and gained some awareness after being unconscious, he contacted Tinney through Facetime to say, “Call my mother,” then Facetimed him again to remind him and yelled out her number.
In a note written on a pad Thursday morning, he told his mom that he wanted to see certain people, Tinney among them, and also his firefighters. On Thursday, Tinney and a group of Bridgeport Firebirds visited Rankins at Bridgeport Hospital.
“One of his big concerns was about the other men,” as they are a close group, Tinney said. “That’s been his priority and that tells you something about him and his spirit.”
Rankins and Torres were pulled from the fire after each made Mayday calls indicating distress. The two were found unconscious on the second floor of the building, Chief John Alston said. Firefighters rescued two residents who were trapped inside the home.
The New Haven community, as well as the firefighter community, have expressed grief over the death of Torres and the critical nature of Rankins’ injuries, as he is so loved and respected.
Torres was the first New Haven firefighter to die in the line of duty in more than a decade.
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