GREENSBORO, NC -- We have all said it.. We've either had the flu or just narrowly missed hitting another car and said, "I thought I wasn't going to make it."
Usually it's just an expression. But when those words come out of the mouth of a firefighter, caught in a fire that took 100 firefighters to fight, it is more than an expression. January 30, 2014, four Greensboro firefighters were injured while fighting a blaze on Elm Street at Import Knights Auto Repair.
The roof collapsed on them. Matthew Clapp, one of the injured firefighters, told 2WTK it was the only time in his life he felt close to death. He's been fighting fires for five years. And right now, he's fighting to be well enough to get back on the job.
"I never seen anything like that. and hopefully I'll never see anything like it again."
Matthew Clapp made it out of the Elm Street fire, but what happened that day will never leave him mentally or physically.
"This was actually holding my ankle together, " he says as he shows what looks like a three inch screw. "They gave it to me as a souvenir. I keep it with me, it reminds me how fragile life is and how blessed I am to be alive and to be here."
Matt had the reminder in his pocket when he came to Greensboro's National Day of Prayer event on May 1st. He prayed for the military, but the words he prayed on the day of the fire were on his mind as well.
"It wasn't the formal prayers like we all pray in church, it was more like a child crying for their father and I think He answered right away."
Matt says while he was trying to get out from under the collapsed roof he could, "clearly hear my Captain's voice. And any fire fighter would understand you can not clearly hear anything in the gear . I could clearly hear his voice saying, 'c'mon guys you got to get out it's time to get out' " Matt has told his survival story again and again. And usually people have the same response.
"A lot of people have made those statements like the Lord was really with you at that time. But no more than he was when I drove here today." Matt believes its not just a miracle he survived, its also part of the plan.
"Once you've fulfilled what He's called you to do, than he will call you home. I guess he's just not done with me yet."
Matt is hoping to be cleared to go back to work by mid-June on light duty. He says he looks forward to fighting fires again, helping people and doing what he says God created him to do.
Of the other firefighters injured, Captain Suddarth is still recovering. But both Shane Boswell and Brian Bachemin are both back at work.