HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - A Huntersville 3-year-old got to be a hero for a day, by becoming an honorary firefighter.
Carter Dang, "Super Carter" to friends and family, has stage 4 neuroblastoma, a cancer he has been fighting for more than two years, and is now in hospice care.
Cornelius firefighters joined Huntersville fire and police officers, MEDIC, and MedCenter Air to make Carter's Saturday special.
More than a dozen fire engines, police cars, and ambulances drove through Carter's neighborhood with lights and sirens on, and Huntersville's fire chief swore Carter in as "firefighter for a day."
As commander of his fleet, Carter was allowed to "inspect" all the apparatus line up on his street as his family and neighbors watched.
Dozens cheered as he received his badge and a special firefighter's hat, or "shield," created by Fire Line Shields, a local company that makes individualized firefighter helmets.
The hat shield showed a cartoon drawing of "Super Carter," like the one that family and friends wore on T-shirts to support the youngster.
The whole celebration made even veteran firefighters get choked up with emotion.
"They say in the fire department you're used to responding to a scene and solving a problem," said Huntersville Fire Dept. spokesman Bill Suthard, who also rode one of the trucks. "And when you're here, and can't really make a difference. It's tough."
Suthard said firefighters are used to being able to help, but this time was different.
"We like to think that the smile that we brought today might make a difference in his life," said Suthard. "But trust me, we'd put all this away, if we could just grab him up and make him healthy today."
Carter's mom wrote on his CaringBridge site that the family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the fire departments and emergency responders.
The firefighters offered to let Carter ride one of the fire trucks, said Suthard, but he wanted to take a nap.