RICHMOND, Va. — There’s a tradition in the Richmond Fire Department: any first-time achievement by a rookie means he or she has to buy cake and ice cream for the whole firehouse.
Newbie firefighter Betty Migliaccio figures she’ll be buying a ton of cake and ice cream: She had her first save; her first all-the-way out (75-foot) ladder rescue and – the most rib-worthy occurrence – her first TV interview as a firefighter.
Of course, it was for a climb for a cat – perhaps a firefighting cliché equal to one for police: stopping for donuts.
But she did it with a giant smile on her face.
It all happened at sunset Monday.
Richmond police officer Kelly Morley caught the squeal about a woman hearing a trapped cat meowing in the area of the Main Street Station in Shockoe Bottom.
They were able to determine it was a kitten, strangely stuck on the edge of a James River bridge support column high atop the valley. It’s unclear what happened, if the male kitten had been dumped on the bridge and somehow crawled through an expansion joint in the surface to escape the relentless interstate traffic.
Rookie Migliaccio got the nod to climb the ladder. “Because I was the new guy, they said it was me,” she said, adding that her fellow firefighters were very supportive and made sure she was safe and ready. She had been training on the high ladder and it was time to put it to use.
As she climbed, she radioed to her supervisor that she would be talking to the cat once she got close. She had a name for it in mind.
“’Hey there little 95, I’m right here!’” she recalled saying. “I was telling him what I was going to do and walking him through it. I patted him on the head twice and I grabbed him. But he was happy I was up there. He wasn’t trying to get away from me at all . . . I put him in my mask bag so I could have him right here against my chest so I could feel him moving around.”
Officer Morley decided on the spot to adopt the kitten. “When they made it back down on the ground I was actually able to hold him and see him. I fell in love with him right away,” she said. “I want him to have a good home. I feel like he went through all that being stuck up there and he deserves to go to a good, safe home.”
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