A 68-year-old woman who first hoped to become a firefighter when she was saved from a burning building at the age of five has finally achieved her dream six decades later.
Andrea Peterson, from Hartford, Vermont has proven she is mentally and physically tougher than many men a third of her age by passing the gruelling tests to join her local station. The petite widow, who stands just 5 foot 5 and weighs 122 pounds, began working as firefighter after years of being deterred from the profession because it was a 'man's job'.Posted by Jill Fallon at February 14, 2013 2:27 PM | Permalink
She first dreamed of becoming a firefighter after becoming trapped in a burning building in Los Angeles as a child, when a fire erupted as her mother cooked in the kitchen. They were rescued by firefighters and she recalled the exhilaration she felt when she was thrown from the window - as well as the certainty that firefighting was her future career.
Her family also deterred her from doing 'a man's work' and after she left college, she had many jobs - ballerina, model, air stewardess, prescriptionist - but they were never the right fit.
'I had to wait a lifetime to be the real me,' she said.
While attending college for aviation technology - where she was the only woman in the class - she met a young man named Dennis and, after four years of dating, they married in 1979. He served in Vietnam as a pilot transporting Agent Orange, and when he returned home he was diagnosed with cancer, and given just months to live. But Peterson devoted her life to ensure that didn't happen - and the couple enjoyed 31 years together. Throughout that time, she was his around-the-clock carer as his body slowly shut down.
When he passed away six years ago, she said she was left mentally and physically exhausted, but it also allowed her to realize that 'it's now or never'.
Despite her classmates and teachers expecting her to drop out, she persevered through the physical training, the studying and the 10 pounds of muscle gain.
'I didn't have a great deal of support,' she remembered. 'But I wanted it so damn bad! I wasn’t going to give up no matter what.'
When she found out she had passed the tests, she collapsed in tears.
'It was better than my wedding day!' she said. 'It was the happiest day of my life.