The day in early February when 3-year-old Carter Dang of Huntersville became an honorary firefighter touched many hearts.
Carter, who lost his battle with cancer on Thursday, laughed as a parade of fire trucks, police cars and other emergency vehicles filed by his house – lights and sirens going full blast.
“It was unbelievable,” said Bill Suthard, public information officer with the Huntersville Fire Department. “He was smiling and neighbors came out. It was a very family-oriented event.”
Carter was already in hospice care when the convoy came through the Gilead Ridge neighborhood in Huntersville, Suthard said.
The event had started to take shape 12 hours earlier when firefighters got word that a seriously ill little boy loved big trucks. They decided to send out one fire truck “on a quiet little visit,” Suthard recalled.
When he mentioned the idea to Huntersville fire Chief Larry Irvin, he said to make sure Carter got to see everything the department had.
The Cornelius Fire Department wanted to participate and things snowballed from there in the emergency services network.
The Cornelius department suggested giving Carter a real fire helmet with a specially designed shield, and contacted Charlotte firefighters Greg Braham and Dan Johnson, who own and operate Fire Line Shields in Cornelius.
Their super hero design showed a little boy in a cape named “Super Carter.”
On parade day, 13 fire trucks, five police cars, two ambulances and other vehicles drove slowly past Carter’s home. Later, a deputy fire chief performed the swearing in that made Carter an honorary firefighter. And he also got a personal inspection tour of the trucks.
Suthard donated a firefighting badge to the little boy. He remembers Carter’s biggest smile flashed when firefighters extended a ladder from a truck up to his bedroom window.
The Huntersville Fire Department announced the death of “Honorary FF Carter Dang (aka Super Carter)” on its Facebook page.
The message read, in part: “We feel comfort knowing that FF Dang’s pain is over and that we were able to have a special visit with Carter and his family a couple of weeks ago.”
Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but Suthard said firefighters are ready to serve as honor guards if requested.
“I love it,” he said. “They’re ready to honor him and his very short life.”