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Firefighter Comforts Woman During Rescue from Collapsed Building

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A firefighter provided a young woman with comfort and compassion in her hour of need during a rescue operation following a building collapse last week in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Not long after completing a 24-hour shift, firefighter Dustin Luebke was called back to work after a building collapsed in downtown Sioux Falls. A half hour later, Luebke was on the scene as part of South Dakota’s urban search and rescue team.

“It was kind of surreal,” describes Luebke, as he and his colleagues were tasked with rescuing 22-year-old Emily Fodness, one of two people trapped beneath the rubble. Fodness was on the phone with both her mother and Division Chief Brad Goodroad, as she tried to help rescue workers locate her.

Luebke says that at one point he and the others were little more than five feet away from Fodness, yet they still couldn’t hear her yelling because of all the debris piled up around them.

“She knew right where she was at in her room,” Luebke explains. “She really kept her cool, and that helped us out a lot in our efforts to find her.”

Rescue workers soon located Fodness’ dog, Nova, and once the dog was safely removed, Luebke spotted Fodness’ hand and immediately took hold of it.

“I grabbed onto her hand, and I said, ‘Emily, I’ve got your hand. I’ve got your hand. We’ve got you now. We’re not going to let go. We’re coming to get you,'” Luebke recalls.

The firefighter could not see her, but for the next half hour he clung tight to Fodness’ hand while the others worked to free her.

The father of three says he thought of his daughters, and hoped that if one of them were in Fodness’ place, he would want someone to hold their hand tight and let them know that everything was going to be okay.

Fodness was finally freed from the collapse, and Luebke stayed by her side until she was carried away from the scene and reunited with her family. Then he went back to work.