Meet Jefferson City's newest firefighter - 4-year-old Kingston McGill.
Kingston, who suffers from arterial vascular malformation, was proclaimed an honorary firefighter Monday morning at Fire Station No. 1, while his family looked on with pride.
Kingston and his parents, Blair and Jesse McGill, are Jefferson City natives who moved to Jacksonville, Fla., in 2011 and are home to visit family members for the Christmas holiday. Kingston's condition has led to three surgeries on his brain to fix an aneurysm that was found when he was 2. He now is one of four children in the United States with two cardiovascular heart stents placed in his brain.
Diane Lindsay, Kingston's grandmother, said after his last surgery, she told him that he was a hero. After he woke up, he told her that "firefighters are his rescue heroes."
After hearing about Kingston's words, Lindsay's coworker and friend Linda Brandt helped start the process for Kingston to become an honorary firefighter. Brandt and her husband, Assistant Fire Chief Lonnie Brandt, then made it possible for Kingston to be a firefighter, at least for one day.
"Kingston is a true miracle," Lindsay said.
Monday started early for the family, who headed to the station on West High Street in time to see a fire truck leave on a call. Lindsay said the look on Kingston's face as he watched the truck leave the station was priceless.
Kingston spent much of the morning walking around the station and playing inside the trucks. As he turned on the truck's lights and sirens, and repeatedly honking the horn, Kingston kept looking at his parents and grandmother with a huge grin. Kingston's maneuvers inside the fire truck also put a smile on the face of his 2-year-old sister, McKinley.
Lonnie Brandt then presented Kingston with a plaque naming him as a "liftetime honorary firefighter" with the Jefferson City Fire Department. Kingston also received a sticker that looked like a badge, a firefighter hat to wear and even got to unwrap an early Christmas gift from the department. (After unwrapping, Kingston smiled and yelled "Legos!")
Jesse McGill, a naval officer and nurse at the naval hospital in Jacksonville, said Kingston's last surgery was in July and he's been doing extremely well the past six months. He said Kingston struggles with many every day tasks, such as using buttons or zippers, but he does very well.
"He still tries to be an independent kid," Jesse McGill said.
As he described his son's condition, Jesse McGill began to tear up, saying the situation can be difficult. When asked what the prognosis is for Kingston, Jesse McGill said that's still the question.
"That is really the biggest question," he said. "It depends on how he reacts to treatment."
Blair McGill said the family just takes it one day at a time.
"It's been a rough road," she said. "It's getting better."
And after everything else, Kingston was able to end the morning with his very own ride on a fire truck. He smiled and waved at his family from the truck, with both his mother and grandmother saying it had been a while since they'd seen him smile that big.
"I haven't seen that big of a grin on his face in a long time," Blair McGill said.
Lonnie Brandt said the department has adopted families and special needs children in the past and being able to provide something to a child who admires firefighters so much is truly something special.
"It is a very special feeling," he said.
Jesse McGill said it meant so much to the entire family that the Jefferson City Fire Department was willing to open up their doors to let a child enjoy the atmosphere.
"It's just heartwarming," Jesse McGill said. "It means a lot."