The last time Arlington Firefighter Wesley Keck saw Koregan Quintanilla he was a teeny tiny little fellow just a few days old, snoozing away in a baby carrier, wrapped snugly in blankets. He was also outside on a chilly November morning, at the back door of Fire Station No. 12 on Collins Street in South Arlington, abandoned.
Once Child Protective Services were brought in to find a foster home for the little boy, Keck figured that was that – and it was, until Thursday evening when guess who came calling, eager to celebrate his tenth birthday at the place he affectionately refers to as “my fire station?”
“On the drive here he was rattling on and on,” said Rebecca Quintanilla, the foster mother who took Koregan in and eventually adopted him. “I can’t tell you specifically what he said but I can tell you he never stopped talking. He was so nervous and excited at the same time.”
That makes two of them. Fire veteran Keck has been around long enough to have found himself in a few heated scrapes, but few things made his palms as sweaty as this. He admitted to being anxious about meeting the boy he found. As Koregan and his mother walked into the fire station, they instinctually flew their arms open for bear hugs. First Keck and Quintanilla, then Keck, Quintanilla and Koregan.
Keck took Koregan for a spin in the fire truck, gave him a tour of the station and surprised him with birthday gifts, as if hanging out in the fire station wasn’t enough.
“Amazing,” said Keck. “Just amazing.”
Koregan, who lives in Watauga with five sisters, all adopted, was left at the station under Texas’ Baby Moses law, which allows a parent to leave an unharmed infant up to 60 days old at a fire station or hospital, no questions asked. (The name comes from the Biblical story of baby Moses who was placed in a wicker basket by his mother to be saved from death and who then grew up to become an important person in history.)
Quintanilla describes Koregan as a smart kid with a gentle nature and maturity beyond his years. When asked by a teacher where he’d like to go more than any other place in the world, he responded “my fire station.”
That’s when Quintanilla began her search for Keck, watching the television news video of the day Koregan showed up at the back door to get his name. She connected with the fire department, and the reunion was on.
Quintanilla called Keck her hero but he said the real hero is actually the Baby Moses Law put on the books in 2001.
“You look at the person who made the decision to bring him to a place where he could be found and taken care of instead of in a dumpster somewhere,” Keck said. “That law saved his life. And the family that adopted him. They saved his life. I just brought him in from the cold.”