SCHENECTADY — On Thursday, for the first time since a deadly fire claimed much of her family and left her severely injured, Safyre Terry met the paramedics who saved her life.
They helped her deliver stuffed animals to be washed before going to charity.
"I like being in charge," Terry said after ushering the crew of paramedics, State Troopers and other volunteers carrying bags and boxes of used stuffed animals to industrial washing machines at the Schenectady Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing. "Being in charge is fun for me."
Entering by motorcade, led by State Troopers, Safyre hopped off a trolley filled with the stuffed animals and was met with hugs from the paramedics who treated her after she was pulled from the still-unsolved May 2013 arson fire that killed her father, David Terry, 32, along with her sister Layah, 3, and brothers Michael, 2, and Donavan Duell, 11 months.
Her story captured the attention of the country and the world in December 2015, when a Christmas card request prompted people to send an estimated 1.5 million pieces of mail to her, gestures that became a worldwide project of love.
Well-wishers, including other fire survivors and even celebrities, sent cards and gifts.
Sean Dell, one of the paramedics who treated Safyre, said he was happy to see her and that it was "refreshing" to get to meet a patient in recovery. Often, Dell said, paramedics only meet patients on the worst of occasions.
"There are a lot of tough days on this job," Dell said. "But it's great to see her out here helping other kids."
Miss Teen Fonda-Fultonville, Lillian Lighthall, accompanied Safyre on the trolley and helped her unload the stuffed animals.
"She's just an inspiration," Lighthall said of Safyre.
"She's the boss," Lighthall's mother, Tanya Lighthall, said of Safyre as the soon-to-be middle-schooler directed volunteers carrying stuffed animals to the washing machines.
As the stuffed animals went for a swirl in the machines, Safyre talked about her career ambitions. Reading The Daily Gazette on a couch in the Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, she had a quick reply when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.
"I don't want to work for an old newspaper!" she said. "I want to be a scientist."
Lighthall then asked Safyre if she would help Lighthall with science experiments, and she agreed, with two conditions: The experiment could not involve bringing dinosaurs back to life, and it had to involve cookies.
"You know, it's impossible to go back in time and get a baby dinosaur," Safyre said. "We can bake cookies and do science experiments."