Catherine Kwon

I know, I know, writing about your parents as your childhood heroes is a huge cliche, but my Dad really was (and still is) my hero. As a kid, my Dad was the coolest person I knew. He was a firefighter at Disney World for thirty years and retired when I was nine. While he was a firefighter, my Dad also ran his own computer repair business. Before working at Disney, he was a pilot, a salesman at my grandparents’ western store and he was a firefighter for my hometown when he was in high school. Naturally, the stories my Dad tells from the variety of jobs he’s held enchanted me. My bedtime stories were about his piloting days or his oddest incidents at Disney or how my parents met. 

You would think that by nature of being a firefighter, my Dad’s proudest moments on the job would have been doing some crazy, cinematic stunts, saving people from burning buildings or repelling down the side of the Disney’s Contemporary Hotel (which he has done more than once, apparently). But the stories my Dad always seemed the most proud of were not action packed thrillers––they were ones where he would make someone feel better, talk to them, calm them down in a stressful situation. The one I remember most was a story about a little girl getting her finger stuck in the hole of a metal chair. He recounted the hours they spent trying to figure out how  to get her finger out without cutting too close to her hand. He spent those hours explaining everything they were doing to the girl and her parents, getting her a soda, a stuffed animal, and eventually freeing her hand from the chair. 

Another story my Dad talked about that always made him seem like a storybook hero to me was how he met my Mom, which is nothing short of a fairytale. She was working as a ride attendant on “If You Had Wings” (now Buzz Lightyear if you care at all where that is) and got moved to parade crowd control for a day. My Dad, whose job also included doing standby at parades in case something went wrong, was working overtime that day. He spotted my Mom when she was standing in a planter in front of Cinderella’s Castle. He introduced himself and remembered  which ride her uniform corresponded to. Afterwards, my Dad would go over to talk to her on his breaks, leaning against the wall as she walked on the moving walkway. The rest is history. 

In his free time from the fire station, he’d volunteer for Angel Flight, helping sick children get to their doctor appointments. He also has this crazy way with animals. I don’t think there was a single one that didn’t like him. At one point, we had at least five cats, most of which my parents rescued off the street. One, a white cat called Casper who my Dad had found so dirty and covered in oil that he was black, only warmed up to my Dad, leaving the rest of our family alone.

My Dad also tried to teach me not to put up with mistreatment from others or something that isn’t right, whether that be a boss or otherwise. I say tried because I don’t think I’ve entirely grown a backbone yet (sorry Dad). I would give a more specific story for this one, but honestly there were so many to count I don’t think picking one would do him justice. 

Some people might stop idolizing their parents when they hit their angsty preteen years, but my Dad’s place in my life as a hero still continues to this day. This past winter break, I got food poisoning from a bad bowl of one dollar dumplings in NYC, and was so sick I missed my flight. I called my Dad and told him I didn’t think I would make it home for Christmas and that we might have to get a hotel. Instead of letting me spend Christmas Eve alone, he (with the help of my Mom) loaded up our car and drove all the way to Connecticut from North Georgia without stopping to beat the massive snowstorm hitting the Northeast. He also set up a mattress in the back of the car so I could sleep on the drive home. Then we drove all the way back to Georgia, only stopping once to sleep for a few hours. 

So my Dad is still the hero he was in my childhood because of his selflessness, drive, and morals that he’s done his best to instill in me. I think he is where I get a lot of my determination to succeed from. I only hope that I can continue living in a way he would be proud of. 

Also since he tells me he reads all my articles, love you Dad!