By Seth Daniel
Third grader Rylee Sostre has been busy since January fighting a potent form of brain cancer, but last Thursday, Oct. 6, he turned his attention to fighting fires with the Chelsea Fire Department (CFD).
Around 1 p.m. on Thursday, one day after receiving chemotherapy at the hospital, a bright, shining Engine 2 fire truck pulled up in front of Sostre’s home on Clark Avenue – red lights turning and firefighters turning out.
In what was a surprise for Sostre, Deputies John Quatieri and Wayne Ulwick went to the front door and greeted Sostre and his mother, Julie Sullivan, and siblings – Melanie, Logan and Sophia. As the younger kids jumped up and down in excitement, Sostre was a little confused.
“You’re going to be a firefighter with us today,” said Ulwick. “You think you can do that?”
“Oh yea,” said Sostre, a smile going from ear to ear.
Firefighters from Engine 2 escorted him to the truck, helped him into the passenger seat, and he was given a first-class ride downtown to Central Fire Station.
Sostre attends the Hooks School, but according to this grandmother, Joann Salas, he was diagnosed with cancer in January after having seizures that went unexplained for some time. After the diagnosis, Sostre has been fighting the cancer and there are some positive signs.
“It’s a happy-sad day today,” said Salas on the way to the Station. “We try to encourage him every day by doing something. We’ve been to the Chelsea Police and he’s going to Cancer Camp. We’re trying to do a lot of things with him quickly. We’re trying to make some memories every day. He told us he wanted to help people and in Chelsea there’s about two ways to do that, be on the police department or the fire department. I have a friend on the Fire Department and we were able to arrange this.”
The request came in to Ulwick, and he, Quatieri and Chief Leonard Albanese wanted to do more than just a simple Fire Station visit. So, they decided to request as many firefighters as possible to come to the station, and to swear in Sostre as an honorary firefighter of the department. Afterward, they took a tour of the Station and the apparatus, then situated themselves upstairs for a pizza party.
“We’re happy to be able to do this with Rylee,” said Quatieri. “He fits right in. When they first came to us and we learned about his situation, everyone here was into it immediately. There was no way it was going to be a station visit. We really wanted him to be a firefighter with us. It puts things into perspective.”
To that end, Sostre arrived at the Station on Thursday and was greeted by a large contingent of firefighters at the front door. They showed him how to put on a gas mask, how to operate the thermal imaging camera and how to work the lights on the ladder truck.
Outside, Firefighter Bryan Bermudez taught Sostre how to operate a fire hose in Fay Square, shooting water far out into the street.
Following that, City Clerk Jeannette Citron arrived to officially swear in Sostre to the Chelsea Fire Department. After he took the oath of office, like every other firefighter, Chelsea 911 announced over the radio “Rylee Sostre” as the newest member of the Chelsea Fire Department.
Several of the firefighters then ushered Sostre up to the kitchen, where they had a colossal pizza party.
“You know you’re the youngest firefighter in the history of Chelsea?” asked Ulwick.
“That’s right, because I’m a hustler,” he joked. “I play video games.”
He and the firefighters talked about cartoons, including Popeye.
“I do watch the videos of him and I always wonder why he has the same name as a restaurant,” said Sostre. “He’s pretty much just an old man trying to eat his veggies.”
Sostre shared that he loves math, and ‘Cutthroat Kitchen,’ and thought he would probably be either a firefighter or a gardener.
“I didn’t really know what was going to happen today,” he said. “I’ve never seen a fire truck outside my house before, but my mom’s friend did mention to me that I was going to the Fire Department today. Still, it was pretty starting to see a firefighter truck come in front of my house. I was like, ‘Whoa!’ This is a once in a lifetime experience. A couple of days ago, I went to see the police. Today, this is the most friends that I ever had.”
Salas said the whole family has taken stock with Sostre’s condition, and she said the world and the City of Chelsea appear different.
“Every moment of every day we try to create memories for him,” she said. “Even if it’s just sitting on the bed and reading, that’s enough; it’s something. We notice things now, the color of the trees, the color of the sky and the people walking by the house. We treasure every moment we can get with him. No matter how bad things are for him, though, he’ll feel bad for everyone else. He’s a remarkable kid. He never thinks of himself.”
At the conclusion of the day’s activities, Sostre gathered his fellow jakes and thanked them.
“I want to thank you for letting me come here,” he said. “I feel like you’re one of our family members now.”
Quipped Firefigher Bob Delaney, “We are your family Rylee. Don’t forget it.”