Tag Archives: Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue

Gratitude shown first responders with 19 quilts

October 29, 2011 was cold and rainy. The car in which Kattie Mendes was riding went out of control on Ridgetop Boulevard and spun off the road, slamming into a maple tree, splitting the tree.

First on the scene was off-duty firefighter Lt. Steve Murray, on his way home.

“I saw a car accident on the side of the road …”

Murray called 911 then checked Mendes and the young man who was driving. The two were lodged in the crumpled car and had to be extricated by Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue crews that followed shortly.

Mendes, then 26, was unconscious. EMTs began care to stabilize her for an airlift to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, which receives many traumatic injuries from Kitsap County.

In all 19 first responders (all from CKFR except Murray) aided the two victims, all but certainly saving their lives.

Francie Mendes, Kattie’s mom, wanted to show her gratitude, and her sister Cheri Searles quickly got on board. Searles is a member of the Kitsap Quilters Guild.

“I said cookies. She said, ‘No, we’re going to make quilts,'” Francie Mendes said of her older sister’s idea.

The two had made quilts for the Lakewood Police Department after four of its officers were gunned down in a Tacoma coffee shop in 2009.

Nineteen quilts seemed a daunting task, Francie said, but they took it one at a time. Each quilt was different. Each has a special message sewn into the corner.

“That’s all we did for six months was work on those quilts. We did nothing else,” Francie said.

Some of the material was donated.

On Tuesday, the sisters presented the quilts at a meeting of the CKFR board of commissioners in Silverdale.

“We are so thankful for all of you here and what you did on that night of October 29 that forever changed our lives,” Francie said.

Kattie is recovering slowly, her mother told the men and women who arrived on the scene. But her memory, speech and fine motor skills remain impaired. She has no memory of the accident, and her short-term memory is poor — though she can remember long-term information, like phone numbers from when her dad was in the Navy and they lived in different places every few years. Through hard work and therapy, Kattie is almost ready to go back to work with Verizon Wireless.

“We know you see so much bad and ugly, we just want to make you happy,” Francie said.

Not all the firefighter/EMTs were able to make it to the ceremony. But those who did got warm hugs from the two sisters as they accepted their gifts.

“Thank you from my niece,” Searles said, as she embraced Murray.

“Thank you so much,” she said to Firefighter Kara Putnam.

Putnam’s unit arrived after Mendes already had been transported from the scene. She helped give aid to the young man, who also is recovering from serious injuries.

“It’s pretty overwhelming,” Putnam said after the brief, informal ceremony. “It’s incredibly kind of them. When we first heard they were doing this … you get chills.”

Putnam said the quilt she chose would coordinate with her bedroom at home, but she has other plans.

“I’ll probably keep this at the station on my dorm bed,” she said.

“It was a labor of love. They really enjoyed what they did,” said Andy Mendes, Kattie’s father.

He was a firefighter on naval aircraft carriers, so he could relate to the daily demands on the group being honored.

“It’s nice to be able to meet these people and be able to show them how much we appreciate what they did,” Andy Mendes said.

Added Cheri’s husband Russ, “Too few tell them thank you.”

The quilting marathon was a bonding experience for the two sisters, both from Poulsbo.

“As sisters, we laughed, we cried,” Francie Mendes said. “Everything here has been prayed over, not just for the people who are receiving the quilts, but for their families.”

… and for everyone who comes under their care.

“We never argue,” said Francie, with a wink at her elder sister.

To which Cheri replied, “That’s because I’m always right.

…. In the photo below by Kitsap Sun photographer Meegan Reid, Francie Mendes hugs firefighter Lt. Steve Murray of North Kitsap Fire & Rescue. Francie’s sister Cheri Searles is in the background.