When I was a teenager, tools were the compass leading me toward manhood, and since then I have done no less than carve my path through life with tools in my hands. I've written over the years about how tools bring truth to your work and put bread on your table. But I've never written about how tools can save your life–until now, until they saved mine.

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Bottom row, left to right: Chuck Mora, Allen Stevens, Anthony Scott, editor in chief Rick Schwolsky, Brian Crawford, John Stewart. Top row: Wayne Ichiyasu, Aaron Peavey.

Credit: Photo: DotForDot.com

This might have been a nice metaphor until a reckless driver turned it into an ugly reality last August. It took a dozen firefighters working for an hour with recip saws, sledgehammers, come-alongs, wrecking bars, and the Jaws of Life to cut me out of what used to be my car, saving my life–changing my life–with their tools.

Pinned in the wreckage and gasping for air, all I could do was watch and wait as they worked–all business. I'll never forget them as long as I live. They probably won't forget me either. Not just because of the incredible scene, but because there in the midst of the noise and chaos, from under the protective blanket they had placed over me, I was the guy who asked what kind of recip saw they were using to cut away the top of my car. I couldn't help it.

Thanks to this fantastic crew from Cherryvale Fire Station 1 in Boulder, Colo., I survived. They came to help a stranger but worked as if their own families were trapped inside with me. And I will never look at these tools the same way again. Like mild-mannered Clark Kents, they sit quietly in their boxes until they hear the call for help, and they go fearlessly to the rescue.

–Rick Schwolsky