Matthew Stabley

Critically Injured D.C. Firefighter Thankful to Be Alive, With Family

A rookie D.C. firefighter critically injured at the scene of a fire last summer is thankful to be alive and with his family this Thanksgiving.

"When something like this happens, you definitely look at things differently,” DJ Smothers Jr. said. “Just being thankful for life."

Smothers said he was getting a hose at row house fire on Capitol Hill in August when a fire truck hit him. He had a lung removed. He had surgery on his spinal chord. The side of his skull was crushed and his ribs were broken.

He spent three months in the hospital and underwent nine surgeries.

"I woke up this morning,” Smothers said Thursday. “I got to see my family again."

This year, he’s spending the holiday at the Upper Marlboro, Maryland, home of his uncle, who is also a firefighter. The two took a picture together just hours before Smothers was hurt.

His father says the family has rallied.

"We had just made it a point that every time he opened his eyes, somebody's going to be there," Dane Smothers said.

"All of the things that I would probably be thankful for normally does not compare to his life," he said.

While DJ Smothers is thankful to be alive, he said he’s also thankful for his father.

"He makes being thankful not enough," he said.

The permanent scars are nothing, he said. He's been out of the hospital for a month and is in physical therapy, working hard to get back to fighting fires.

“They are the neighborhood heroes,” he said. “They are who people look to. I want to have that impact on people."

DJ Smothers Jr. had only been on the job for three months when he got hurt.

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