It would be far too easy for Jerrod Goebel to just forget the past year.
Forget it ever happened. Forget about the pain. Forget the physical therapy that helped him learn to walk again.
And forget all the little details of a yearlong recovery from a car accident that killed his wife.
It would be far too easy for the Carol Stream firefighter to forget why he wanted to be a firefighter in the first place.
"It's going to be on my mind a long time," Goebel, 26, said in his Lisle home, a modest ranch at the end of a street overlooking the Reagan Tollway.
Jerrod Goebel, seriously injured in a car crash that killed his wife, returned to the Carol Stream Fire Protection District last week.
Just two weeks into his first full-time job as a firefighter, Goebel lay comatose in intensive care as family members prepared to bury his wife. He'd just completed eight days of department orientation and was to begin his first shift as a Carol Stream firefighter last Memorial Day.
Goebel had no insurance and an uncertain chance for survival, but his colleagues mobilized to keep his job safe.
Fellow firefighters donated sick days and covered his shifts. They took turns traveling to Rockford Memorial Hospital to keep vigil at his bedside. They organized fundraisers, took up collections and sold raffle tickets, ultimately raising $15,000 for his medical expenses and donating 720 sick hours.
To be sure, Goebel's challenge isn't over. He will likely never retrieve memories of the week leading up to the accident.
The efforts of his colleagues at the fire department ensured he would qualify for the department's insurance plan. They covered his shifts during the first month after the crash so he could qualify for insurance because he needed to be on the job for a month to do so.
There's days the world seems like a pretty terrible place, then you realize 1) you don't have it that bad, and 2) there really a lot of great people out there who will go the extra mile to help someone.