On Friday, Joe, Sonny and I took to the road. We had dropped Riley off at school to take the coach to the Peter Pan pantomime. Zachary went for a play at his Nanny’s house while we embarked on an adventure of our own. We’d been invited to Luton Airport Fire Station to meet some very special people.
I wrote about the annual school trip to the Pantomime in a recent post ‘I Was Sad but You Smiled.’ A trip to the pantomime would have proved too overwhelming and I felt guilty that Riley could go and Sonny couldn’t. It’s a pretty big deal you see. It bothered me to think Sonny was missing out on all the fun. I was determined to find a way to make the day memorable for him too. I just wasn’t sure how.
Some time passed. It was school pick up time. I anxiously fiddled with the toggles on my coat as I wondered how Sonny had been that day. The children soon came running out to greet their parents with happy faces and wide open arms. After a while, we were all reunited and ready to set off home for dinner. A fellow parent stopped me and begun to explain how they had read my blog and wondered if we would like to come to Luton Airport Fire Station as a treat, even offering to take us if getting there was a problem.
The three boys, obviously hungry and in a hurry, had left me a little flustered. After expressing my keen interest and thanks, only realised half way home I’d forgotten to ask the gentleman’s name. Thank you Facebook!
The day of the pantomime arrived. There was a chill to the Friday morning air but the sun was shining and we were raring to go. Sonny was so excited he was awake half the night. All dressed and good to go, breakfast had been eaten and welly boots were on by 7:30am. Riley was excited about his day ahead and impatiently rummaged through his packed lunch to see the yummy treats prepared for him. With a kiss, a cuddle and a cheer to have fun, we waved Riley off with the rest of his friends. Off he went, packed lunch in hand and a tummy full of butterflies.
Sonny sat in the front seat on our journey to the Airport, urging Joe to go faster all the way. He loves to be Joe’s back seat driver although he doesn’t care too much for the rules of the road. Finally we pulled up to the security gates that separated us from all that was in store. We watched the aeroplanes taking off and landing while we waited. Sonny was amazed, having never been abroad, he’d never been this close to an aeroplane. He clung to the window in awe, shouting ‘have a nice holiday!’ to those on board.
After a little bit of paperwork and a few quick checks, we were greeted at the gates by David, our familiar face and escorted to the fire station. We took a walk through the station to sign ourselves in and were warmly welcomed by all who saw us. Sonny introduced himself and we were taken up to meet the fireman on duty in the watch tower. What a view! We could see the control tower and the planes that climbed the run way to the sky. We said goodbye and we walked the winding steps down to the middle floor. David opened the doors to show us the fire pole they would use to save time using the stairs! We’d never seen one with our own eyes. Sonny had only seen one on Fireman Sam.
Down another set of stairs and out the door, we took a walk to see all the snow machinery. We’d never seen so many snow ploughs in one place before. We spotted half an aeroplane stationed on the green and were taken to have a look inside. David showed us the cockpit and Sonny made himself comfortable on a seat by the window. Sonny would love a trip on an aeroplane, after seeing how happy he was, it’s something we need to make happen.
We were then called over by another fireman to take a ride in a fire engine. Joe, Sonny and I sat along the back seats, Sonny was happy and smiling, enjoying the view from the window. This was the moment he’d really been waiting for. The sirens sounded as we drove across the runway and round past aeroplanes to a fire training ground. Looking around there were various training containers. There was even a plane crashed into a grass verge. In the centre stood an enormous section of a plane. We climbed the steps to look inside, it was very dark and we learned that this was used to smoke out for training. Sonny was a little frightened by the pretend dummies but after a little reassurance that they weren’t real he was okay.
We took the stairs back down again, across the floor there were gapped bars that Sonny was too frightened to walk over so Joe carried him. We stood well back and watched as they lit the fire pit next to the craft. The warmth from where we stood was incredible. All that we were missing was a few marshmallows to toast.
David got the call that they were needed at the station. There was going to be a practice turnout. Every now and again the watch tower will sound the alarm to the fire station watch tower and the team have to be dressed, in their vehicles and at the scene within 3 minutes. We drove back to the station and watched the practice turnout. What an unexpected treat!
When the vehicles returned, they left one of the large airport fire vehicles out and invited us to take a seat inside. They sprayed the water from the boom and explained how it all worked which Sonny loved. They were so different to the fire engines we would see at home.
When the weather grew a little colder, we joined the gentlemen for a cup of tea and some biscuits before it was time for us to head home. I think Sonny loved the biscuits almost as much as everything else we saw that morning. He was treated to a whole host of goodies to take home and treasure.
What a special time we had.
From the very start we were warmly welcomed and made to feel at ease. All the team were incredibly sensitive to Sonny’s needs (some through their own personal experiences) asking prior to our visit about potential triggers so they could help to avoid them. They asked before turning on the sirens to give plenty of warning which was very thoughtful. We were able to enjoy the morning without any worry for how Sonny might cope and what people would think if Sonny began to struggle.
How touching that in an honest moment of despair, a member of the community reached out to our little family with a gesture so kind. It is the kindness and understanding of those around us that fill me with hope. As though we can face the world free of judgement. It allows me to feel like I can send Sonny out into the big wide world knowing he will be just fine.
The little things. The little moments, they aren’t little.
Not to us.
I want to say a huge thank you to David and his family and to all those at Luton Airport Fire Station for making the day a possibility and for making us feel so welcome. Thank you for treating Sonny like he was the only one that mattered and for pulling out all the stops to provide us with a truly memorable experience.
We look forward to seeing you all again soon!