They said “I do,” then the groom raced off to do what he had to do.
Posted in , Jun 25, 2020
“What now?” I said to my fiancé, Jeremy. Six weeks before our wedding we discovered that the quaint lake cabin we’d chosen for the ceremony was suddenly unavailable. The cabin where Jeremy had proposed to me five years earlier. The cabin that was free of charge because it belonged to a relative. The cabin whose address was on the mailed wedding invitations.
“We’ll figure something out,” Jeremy said, wrapping his arms around me. His embrace usually made everything better, but not today. “You know it’s never been important for me to have a fancy wedding,” I told him, “but I really wanted to get married somewhere special to both of us.”
Jeremy and I met when I was 21. Six years into our relationship, he proposed, but one thing after another had interfered with planning the wedding. Finally we thought we were all set: my dress, my bridesmaids, his groomsmen, the minister, the caterer. But with no venue, none of it mattered.
“I’m so sorry, babe,” Jeremy said. “We’ll just have to roll with it.”
“Roll with it” had become our motto as a couple. We’d learned to be flexible since Jeremy had become an on-call firefighter at the nearby St. Paul Park Fire Station. I was so proud of him. Of his sacrifice. Of his commitment. Jeremy went on up to 10 fire calls a month, in addition to having a full-time job. He’d left family gatherings, even birthday parties, rushing out at a moment’s notice. Yes, he was doing something amazing for others, but sometimes I just wanted him to make us more important. He wasn’t obligated to answer every single call, but he did anyway.
We rented a local restaurant for both the ceremony and the reception, the best we could do without changing the date. Still, I couldn’t stop racking my brain for an alternative. Was there any other place that held meaning for us? With just five weeks to go before the wedding, I had an idea.
“What if we had the ceremony at the fire station?” I asked Jeremy over dinner. “The reception will be only a mile away.”
He shook his head. “The chief would never let it fly. What if there’s a fire call?”
“What are the chances of there being a fire at the exact time we’re getting married?” I asked, feeling a pang of resentment. “The ceremony lasts only a few minutes.”
The next day Chief Lee agreed to Jeremy’s request, with the stipulation that we didn’t decorate much. After all, it was a working fire station. I was thrilled! But I knew there was one more thing I needed to get straight with Jeremy.
“On the slim chance that there is a fire call that day, you absolutely won’t take it, right?” I said to him.
“I’d never leave our wedding,” Jeremy said. “The other guys can do it.”
I sighed with relief. Everything was set. A few weeks later, my two bridesmaid sisters held the train of my wedding dress as I climbed aboard a fire engine. The pumper transported the three of us to the St. Paul Park Fire Station. All five trucks had been moved out of the bays to make room for the chairs for our 100 guests. As I walked down the center aisle, Jeremy waited for me in front of a shiplap backdrop my brother-in-law had built and a gorgeous floral wreath my aunt had made with hydrangeas from her yard.
We said our vows, and my hands shook as Jeremy slipped the wedding ring onto my finger. It was the happiest moment of my life. The guests left for the reception while our photographer posed the wedding party. She’d shot only a few photos when four sharp bells echoed through the cavernous fire station. And I don’t mean wedding bells. It was a fire alarm.
The emergency radio squawked, “Active structure fire. In-house alarm throughout all Washington County.”
I shot Jeremy a warning look. “Don’t even think about it.”
The photographer snapped away, but I could see that Jeremy was distracted. A fireman rushed toward the lockers. “It’s really getting bad,” I heard him say to another firefighter.
The alarm sounded once again. The dispatcher’s tone was urgent. “This is an all call. Concern for the home next door if the fire is not contained.”
The situation was dire. They needed more firefighters. I looked at Jeremy. He was torn—I could see it. I grabbed his hands, my husband’s hands. I couldn’t believe what I was about to say, but I said it. “Go ahead, babe. They need you.”
Jeremy squeezed me tight. He raced to his locker, jumped into his gear and climbed aboard the pumper truck. I turned to watch the truck speed away. There goes my husband.…My heart felt as if it would burst, not with resentment or disappointment, but with pride. I was proud of Jeremy for going on the call, and I was proud of myself for finally getting it, 100 percent.
I rode to the reception with the groomsmen. When I walked in, I explained Jeremy’s absence to our bewildered guests. Then I led a prayer for the firefighters and for the families affected, that everyone would be safe. Two hours into the reception, applause broke out. There was Jeremy standing in the doorway. I ran to him, almost tripping over my gown, as our guests gave him a standing ovation. The blaze had been contained, and no lives had been lost.
Jeremy led me onto the dance floor. Swaying back and forth in my husband’s arms, I felt more than just happy. Everything was better. Everything. The wedding day I’d yearned for since childhood definitely hadn’t gone as planned, but it had turned out to be more meaningful than I could ever have imagined. Jeremy sometimes needed to be there for other people, and for that I couldn’t love him more.
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