Elgin firefighter Shay Brill was awarded a medal of merit for pulling over while off-duty to help a Cook County sheriff's deputy hit by a drunken driver on Interstate 90.
But that's doesn't tell the whole story. Not even close.
When Brill pulled over at about 11 p.m. Dec. 5, he was on his way to the hospital where his 16-year-old daughter had been airlifted with a skull fracture after a car crash that also injured his 13-year-old son. A crash that Brill had rushed to a few hours earlier after getting a frantic call from his son.
"It was a crazy day," he said. No kidding.
Brill tells the story good-naturedly, insisting he didn't do much other than divert traffic, feel the officer's pulse and talk to him to try to calm him down. The officer, who had to be extricated from his totaled vehicle, suffered two broken ribs, a concussion and head lacerations. A second officer also was injured, and the driver was charged with aggravated DUI.
Earlier in the evening, Brill's kids were injured when the vehicle driven by his daughter rolled over three times after a gust of wind blew it off the road near Hampshire, where the Brills live.
Brill and his wife rushed to the scene, arriving at the same time as paramedics and finding their daughter unconscious and their son with a fractured femur and tibia. Brill said he helped put his daughter on a board and do a quick trauma assessment. Both kids were transported to Advocate Sherman Hospital, then doctors decided the girl should be moved to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
Brill was driving alone eastbound on Interstate 90 near Arlington Heights Road -- his wife was on her way with a friend -- when he saw a car zip past him on the right, cross over all three lanes of traffic and crash into two squad cars stopped by the median. The deputies had finished pulling over another driver, who had just left, Brill said.
While Brill was recognized by the fire department at its annual ceremony in February, he said the most important thing is that his children are doing well. His daughter is back playing lacrosse and his son is walking and back in school, and is expected to be back in sports in June.
Did Brill freak out, even just a little, wondering why it was all happening in the same day?
"No," he said. "Me freaking out isn't going to help the situation. It's not the best thing for my kids."
It's his nature to remain calm and steady, which he says is commonplace among firefighters. "A lot of us are here because of our nature," he said.
• Do you know of any Suburban Heroes? Share your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.