Growing up with a stay at home dad, I learned a lot of skills most girls do not learn from their fathers. He taught me how to ride a bike and how to read, how to do laundry, put a ­hammer to a nail, cut ­firewood, and the value of hard work. You could say he is a “jack of all trades.” In my eyes, my father is indestructible, a real-life Superman. Never did I consider my father, my hero, would need me to save his life.

On May 26, I learned a ­valuable lesson – life can be taken at any moment. It was a Friday evening and my parents and I were on the ­interstate, heading on a trip for the holiday ­weekend, when my father started coughing. At first my mom and I were unsure what was ­happening. He was ­coughing in the back seat, when all of a sudden his coughs turned into wheezes, then silence. That’s when we realized he was ­choking. My mother, driving in traffic, was unable to help; his life was all on me.

Before continuing, it is essential to know the backstory. Last May I interned for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, where, thankfully, I was able to become first aid certified. Although I had been previously certified, I went through the training once again with my coworkers. The AIEC is focused on safety and committed to ­annually training its employees. I did not ­realize the seriousness of workplace safety trainings until May 26, but now I know, safety is the most crucial job of all.

Thanks to my recent first aid ­certification, I was able to remain calm and composed when assisting my father. I jumped in the backseat to help him. His lips were blue; I’ll never forget that shade of blue. I wedged myself between him and the seat, and proceeded to give him the Heimlich maneuver which I had learned from the AIEC American Red Cross first aid training. After what felt like an eternity, my dad started coughing. I recalled from my training that if the person is coughing, he/she is ­breathing. “He’s okay,” I thought to myself.

I allowed him to cough, but yet again, the coughing came to a halt and his face went pale. For a ­second time, he was unable to breathe. I continued to perform the Heimlich until finally he gasped for air, this time for good. That day he assured me that if it wasn’t for my first aid knowledge, he would not be alive. I ­cannot fathom the feeling of fear he experienced, and ­having his life in the hands of his 21-year-old ­daughter. My family and I are all unbelievably thankful for the AIEC’s mandatory employee safety trainings.

It is terrifying to think that this can happen to anyone. When we hear of choking situations we ­typically think of children, but that is not always the case. It could happen to anyone, whatever the age; whether in a restaurant or a car, you must always be ready for action.

I learned another vital lesson that Friday ­evening; safety comes before all other things. Please ­remember this lesson as you go forth at work or even in your everyday lives. When your employer assigns safety ­trainings, remember they are ­important. Be attentive and willing to learn. Continue to ­educate yourself on safety, every chance you get, for the knowledge gained is ­valuable. Work can wait, saving ­someone’s life cannot. You never know when someone may need you to be his/her hero.