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Accident alters teacher’s perspective

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Chemistry teacher Jeffrey Keene’s leg was crushed by a firetruck when he tripped and fell at his old job as a firefighter. Keene lost his leg below the knee at age 19 and has since learned to live with a missing limb.

Chemistry teacher Jeffrey Keene’s leg was crushed by a firetruck when he tripped and fell at his old job as a firefighter. Keene lost his leg below the knee at age 19 and has since learned to live with a missing limb.

Gracen Rivera

Gracen Rivera

Chemistry teacher Jeffrey Keene’s leg was crushed by a firetruck when he tripped and fell at his old job as a firefighter. Keene lost his leg below the knee at age 19 and has since learned to live with a missing limb.

Hartley Hill, Staff Writer

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While on call as a firefighter, not long after completing his first year of training, Jeffery Keene stepped off the firetruck to grab a hose — but tripped and fell in the process. In a matter of seconds, his life changed forever as the firetruck pulled up and came to a stop on his foot, crushing it. 

“Right away, negative thoughts began running through my head as I was thinking of all the things I wasn’t going to be able to do,” Keene said. 

Before he was a director of farming operations at a hydroponic herb farm, a science intern at Disney’s Land Pavilion in Epcot and an earth science and chemistry teacher, Keene was a firefighter in New York for 10 years. The job ran in the family; his father, uncles, step-dad and cousins were all a part of the firefighting service, so Keene followed suit and suited up. 

“The service made the job appealing to me,” Keene said. “You get to serve your community, learn a lot, meet people and have fun.” 

When he was 18 years old, Keene joined Explorers, a firefighter training program for teenagers. He went on to complete a required year of training to become an official firefighter. 

“The year of training was the most challenging,” Keene said. “It is very important to be an active member too, or else you are kicked out. You have to actually be there, clean the truck, clean the firehouse, go to trainings and go to fire calls, which can sometimes mean waking up at 2 a.m.” 

But then he fell. 

Keene spent three months in the hospital while in rehabilitation after losing his foot to the firetruck. He walked out of the hospital with a cane and prosthetic leg. Now a department member for 27 years, Keene will continue being a life member because of his permanent injury on the line of duty. 

“It was sad,” Keene said. “My family was concerned with what would happen to me. I was faced with the option of living off my parents for the rest of my life.” 

Keene had to withdraw from his college classes for a semester. His accident also led to a breakup with a girlfriend he had at the time. 

“After some time though, I started realizing that you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to,” Keene said. “So, you fight through the negative things that have happened to you, you focus on the positive and you become more than what you were before.” 

After a year, Keene was becoming comfortable doing things he used to do again such as firefighting, hiking and mountain biking. Later he jumped back into his classes, finished college with a four-year degree and began a family. 

“I learned that everything happens for a purpose,” Keene said. “Had this not happened to me, I would not be the person I am today. I believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but only if you allow it to.” 

Keene was the only one-footed firefighter in the state of New York for the next eight years. He became a teacher when he moved to Florida and hopes to continue teaching until he retires.  

“I was always good at getting the point across to people, so I guess it is my gift,” Keene said. 

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Accident alters teacher’s perspective