Since his earliest memories, Jason Hufford has always wanted to be a firefighter.
But what he wasn't prepared for were the many traumatic experiences that would have an affect on his mind and eventually, his body. Nor was he prepared for the yearlong journey he endured to become an advocate for first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress.
About 27 years ago, Hufford, now a Newark firefighter, got his first fire certification and began volunteering for Heath. A few months later, he was one of the volunteers to respond to a fatal bicycle crash.
"My basket was empty then and that was the first piece of paper that went in the basket," Hufford recalled during an interview with The Advocate.
There were dozens to follow - the majority of them involving children who died in fires or car crashes. In 2017, after yet another child died in a car accident, Hufford found himself dreading work and suffering chest pains.
"That was rough," he said tearfully. "My basket overflowed." Hufford, who once loved the adrenaline of fighting a fire, now dreaded going to work, fearing he'd witness another child's death.