It was a routine call for the Springfield Fire Company: a T-bone accident with minor injuries.
In the early afternoon of Nov. 6, six firefighters arrived at the Sproul Road entrance to the Target store at Springfield Mall and met the Blackburn family.
Mother Krista, father Kevin, 5-year-old Isaiah, and 2-year-old Aria, of Kannapolis, N.C., had been in one of the cars. As someone tended to an injury on Krista's arm, other firefighters sat on the ground with Aria and Isaiah, trying to distract them with toys.
"We talk to people every accident," said Mike Norman, career supervisor for the Springfield Fire Company. "But this one here, it really sunk in."
"Just when you think you're having a bad day," said firefighter Dan Traband Jr., "someone else is having a worse day than you thought you were having."
The Blackburns were in town so that Aria, who has been treated for eye cancer, could be seen at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Wills Eye Hospital, according to a spokesman for the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, a nonprofit that provides temporary housing for families of sick children, including the Blackburns.
When the firefighters returned to the station, the Blackburns' story stuck with them. The group began talking and texting about how they could help, especially given the cost of cancer treatment and the upcoming holidays. By Friday, the 15 to 20 officers, members, and career staff of the Springfield Fire Company had pooled together about $2,000 in cash and bank gift cards, and worked with the Ronald McDonald House to arrange a surprise for the family.
When four firefighters arrived there on Friday morning, the Blackburns thought the men were returning something they found in their wrecked rental car, Norman said. But, after a half-hour of playing with Aria and Isaiah, firefighters Bob Tracey, Vince Procopio, Norman, and Traband revealed the real reason for the visit.
Their act of kindness was captured on video and had been viewed on Facebook nearly 9,000 times as of Monday afternoon.
The Blackburn family could not immediately be reached for comment Monday but Krista Blackburn posted on Facebook thanking the Springfield Fire Company and the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House for helping her family through a rough few days.
"We are so humbled by the Springfield Fire Company's generosity and kindness. They were simply amazing," she said. "These men right here are true heroes. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Last week's trip marked the Blackburns' 15th stay with the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, the spokesman said, and they had been heading to pick up supplies for their four-day stay when they got into the accident. Krista Blackburn said Aria's checkup went well, however, and the little girl remained cancer-free.