It was an emotional reunion days after firefighters pulled two toddlers from their burning home. The boys were rescued from their home in Lake Station, Indiana, over the weekend. Sadly, their mother died in the fire.
The last time Hobart Fire Chief Brian Taylor saw 3-year-old Andrew Collins was when he carried the child out of a burning home. Wednesday morning, he wiped tears of joy from his eyes.
"Today he actually held my hand, and it's great. It's a merry Christmas," Taylor said.
Taylor won't take any credit for being a hero.
Neither will Captain Rob Saylor. He is with the Lake Station Fire Department. Saylor rescued Andrew's 1-year-old brother Landon.
"It's bittersweet. In the long run, there are two children without a mother today," said Saylor.
On Saturday night, the boy's mother, 29-year-old Jennifer Teel, died of smoke inhalation trying to save them. The blaze started in the kitchen of her northwest Indiana home, but the cause is still under investigation.
Captain Saylor says, when he went in, he couldn't see anything.
"I just remember feeling I could feel his ribs," Saylor said. "I could feel his torso and his ribs through my gloves...It was like a sack of potatoes. It was limp."
Saylor took little Landon out of his crib and got him to safety through a window. Shortly after that, Chief Taylor discovered Andrew in a separate bedroom.
"It's the greatest gift, to be honest with you," said Saylor. "The last time I saw him, I wasn't quite sure, it didn't look good."
The boys remain in critical condition at Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago.
With badly injured lungs, they lay draped in blankets given to them by men who want to watch them grow old.
"What I hope for him. and for me selfishly, is that I continue to be a part of his life for a long time," said Taylor.
They hope a few small gifts or maybe a soft touch will help them heal faster. The children who lost everything now have extended family.
"I'm sure we'll be there for birthday parties and whatnot," said Saylor. "Hoping to have one for life, they'll grow up, and live normal lives as children."
Doctors at Comer say the two boys are fighters and they are showing signs of improvement, but they will likely be hospitalized for a few more weeks.
Family members say the boys have nothing. If you want to help, a trust fund has been set up:
"Collins Teel Benefit for Family"
People can donate in person and by mail. Include the name of the account in the correspondence. The name of the fund is "Collins Teel Benefit for Family". Centier Bank has multiple locations throughout northwest Indiana.