5.23.2008

A measure of courage

A measure of courage
by Shane Wilson

The Rio Dell Volunteer Fire Department and the Rio Dell Fire Protection District would like to offer our deepest condolences to the Rodoni family for the tremendous loss they have suffered. Roger was a true friend to our department and we will miss him. His smiling face and humorous persona while volunteering during our Wildwood Days Bar-B-Que will be a lasting memory for all of us.

I find this column very difficult to write, even though many days have past since that tragic afternoon. I wanted to say these things during Roger's memorial service; however, I knew that I would have been too emotional to speak. Putting this into words will be difficult, but here it goes:

I will start by saying how proud I am of our volunteer firefighters who were at the scene of the accident that day. Four people from our department just happened to be passing by, and stopped to assist the victims in this fairly large accident. Their actions that day are an inspiration to volunteers and Samaritans everywhere.

This was a test of courage that cannot be measured, but can be greatly appreciated by everyone in our community. I am truly honored to be a member of a fire department with such selfless and professional personnel.

Rogers last seconds were the epitome of strength and courage.

Everyone has heard the main ingredients in this tragic story: Roger was going to his rally in Fortuna. He was talking to his beloved wife Johanna on his cell phone. Johanna and Roger had just passed each other going opposite directions seconds before the accident.

Here are some of the details that only a few people know about:

Roger's Ford F250 came to rest over the bank on its wheels after rolling numerous times. The cab of the pickup was severely crushed, and the trauma that Roger sustained was immense. He was also trapped in the driver's side doorway of the vehicle.
Amber Bowlds, one of the above-mentioned firefighters, was the first to make contact with Roger. Shockingly, she found that he had a pulse. However, he was not breathing.

Feeling helpless, Amber could not initiate CPR due to Roger's position in the vehicle. She tried to manage his airway by holding his head a position to breathe. Within a few minutes, Amber saw someone standing beside the vehicle who she recognized immediately. It was Johanna.

Johanna, sensing something was wrong, had turned her vehicle around and returned to check on her husband. She asked Amber about the condition Roger was in. Amber told her that it was not good.

Johanna asked if she could go to him, and Amber told her that it was her decision, but she should know that he was hurt very badly.

Bravely, Johanna went to her husband's side and held his hand. She spoke to him in private for the last time. Johanna told him that she loved him, and his pulse was soon lost. I do not know the words that she chose, but I know that Roger waited to hear them before he let go.

Roger Rodoni is the utmost measure of courage. This impact should have caused his death immediately, but Roger knew that his wife would soon return. He was strong enough to hold on for several minutes so they could share one last goodbye. He gave her that final moment with him, truly an inspiring moment for us all.

Roger was many different things to many different people: Friend, colleague, mentor and teacher, just to name a few. For me, in those final minutes of his life, he also became an inspiration.

Shane Wilson is chief of the Rio Dell Volunteer Fire Department.