Monse Villagomez isn’t shy about telling people her plan to be a firefighter someday.
The 7-year-old likes the heavy protective gear firefighters wear, loves the idea of racing down the street in a bright red fire engine, and, most of all, she said, “I want to help people and make them safe. I want to be a helper.”
On Monday, part of her dream came true when she left her wheelchair inside Moline’s Central Fire Station and rode away in the front passenger seat of fire engine No. 11.
The second-grader at Hamilton Elementary in Moline took the morning off from school to tour the station and its living quarters and eat lunch with the firefighters.
Ald. Quentin Rodriguez, 1st Ward, coordinated the tour for Monse after he met her in late October and heard of her dreams. At the station Monday, he stood back and watched as firefighters showed her the equipment they carry in the fire engine and ambulance, and told her when and how all of it’s used.
Monse asked questions, giggled with delight, told them red is her favorite color, pointed out how big the tires are on the fire engine and more than a few times exclaimed “Mamma Mia” to express her awe.
Her mother, Cecilia Gomez, said Monse was very excited and emotional about having the chance to tour the station with the crew that works and lives there. Monse always is saying she wants to be a firefighter, she wants to be a firefighter, she wants to be …, Ms. Gomez said with a smile.
Monse uses a motorized wheelchair because her hip and legs are underdeveloped.
“Yet, she has no limits,” said MaryAnn Garcia, a volunteer with Palomares Social Justice Center in Moline.
Ms. Garcia credit’s Monse’s go-getter attitude to her parents. “They treat her like she has four limbs, and that is how she thrives, by being treated like any other kid.”
As the fire engine returned to the station after a trip around the block, engineer Kris Johnson announced their arrival with flashing lights and a couple beeps of the horn.
In the front seat, Monse waved ecstatically to those who waited for her at the station, her face filled with a joyous smile.
Caption: Moline Fire Dept. engineer Kris Johnson shows Monse Villagomez, 7 of Moline, how a fire hose nozzle works during her tour of the department’s Central Fire Station Monday, November 9, 2015, in downtown Moline. Looking on in the background is Monse’s sister, Diana Villagomez, 10.
Photo by Todd Mizener courtesy of The Dispatch