One year after West, firefighting family remembers lost brother

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 7:53 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 17 at 7:55 PM

WEST -- When Airman First Class Page Calvin isn’t on duty at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, the 21-year-old is on call at Navarro Mills Volunteer Fire Department near Corsicana.

Her dad, Fire Chief Phil Calvin and big brother, Perry, used to race to be first to respond to the alarm.

News 8 first met Page Calvin at the community center in West as dawn broke the morning after the fertilizer plant explosion one year ago.

She was staring straight ahead through eyes red and swollen from tears and fatigue. She was trying to find out if Perry was among the firefighters killed in the blast.

Hour after hour, cold rain and colder reality soaked in. 

"I was looking for my brother,” she said at the Navarro Mills VFD this week. “I knew he would have done the same for me. It's in our blood.  So..."

So she tried to talk her way into the blast zone a year ago but got turned away. Then searchers found Perry Calvin's body. He'd come to West for training because he wanted to be a professional firefighter, and he wanted little sister to be one, too.

"If I wouldn't have been in the military I would have been there with him,” Page said. “Because that's what we were going to do together."

Meaning Phil Calvin could have lost his son and daughter that night. They inherited his passion to serve. 

"Used to it made me proud. Still does,” Phil Calvin said, pausing to consider his mixed emotions.  “It makes me scared now."
 
Just last month Phil Calvin had his own close call. A burning house blew up in his face. He was the first volunteer to arrive, and he started fighting the fire alone. 

"It just exploded,” Chief Calvin recalled. “Flames going every direction."

It knocked him down and blew off his helmet and glasses. Still, his daughter has decided to change her career path. She hopes to transition to firefighting in the military, and then to become a professional firefighter.

In Perry's loss, she has found her way, and her inspiration is a thought that brings tears back to her eyes.

"I know it will be hard. But he'll be there with me. If I need help, I know he'll be there to watch me," she said of her brother.

He'll be watching all the Calvins at Navarro Mills VFD.  Father, mother, sister. Perry’s brother and sister-in-law just joined as well.

They're volunteers driven to serve and to remember. 

E-mail: jdouglas@wfaa.com

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