SAN DIEGO - 10News reporter Marie Coronel paid a visit to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department's Fire Station 11 Tuesday to personally thank two first responders who treated her after she was injured by a falling tree.
On February 1, 2016, Coronel was badly injured moments before she was set to do a live report on storm damage. A massive eucalyptus tree snapped without notice, and heavy branches crushed her and photographer Mike Gold.
Gold suffered a compound fracture to his femur, while Coronel suffered multiple and severe breaks to her arm, spine and neck.
Tuesday's reunion was both physically and emotionally difficult for Coronel, as she said, "You relive it, you know."
She is still in pain and walks slowly, her head and neck still stiff from the trauma.
"I was excited and nervous to come here today. As a reporter, we see them (paramedics) do their jobs, but to be on the other side … they had me in their hands. How could I not come here? It has now come full circle and this is part of my recovery process," she added.
- VIDEO: Reporter Marie Coronel's road to recovery
- LISTEN: 911 call by 10News photographer Mike Gold after tree collapse
- Tree falls in Mira Mesa, injuring 10News reporter, photographer
Coronel was joined by her husband, Jon, and her mother, who delivered a massive dish of homemade egg rolls to the men who were by her daughter's side during her darkest moments.
Coronel doesn't remember a lot from the incident, as she suffered a concussion that morning. She does remember Aaron Bothwell, the firefighter/paramedic who held her hand.
"She was scared and we knew she had severe injuries. We knew it was bad. She kept asking me if she was going to live. She asked repeatedly if her neck was broken and if she was going to die," said Bothwell.
He held her hand all the way to the hospital. It was the comfort and reassurance that Coronel needed on that morning that nearly ended her life.
Ernie Hernandez, an 18-year veteran firefighter/paramedic, said he kept reassuring her. The two paramedics serve as her memory, and one memory in particular brought Coronel and her mother to tears.
"You kept asking for your momma, you kept saying, 'I want my mom, I want my mom,'" said Hernandez.
Coronel looked at her mom and both broke down, hearing that for the first time.
Both of the first responders said when they pulled up to the scene, it was chaotic and dangerous. There had been several reports of downed trees that morning in that area.
"Earlier, a woman in Pacific Beach had died from a fallen tree, so we were all thinking of that while we were on our way to Marie," said Hernandez. "It was windy and we knew if one tree fell, others could go. We wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. We looked around before getting out to see if it was safe. It was dangerous."
Coronel gave the paramedics big hugs and asked about their lives, work and families.
"Thank you, guys. I remember being so scared and you kept me calm and told me I was going to make it," she said through tears.
Coronel still has a long recovery. She has started physical therapy on her injured arm, but it will take time for her neck and back to heal.
"I just want to get back to what I was," she said.
Coronel has two sons, 2 and 5 years old. She's looking forward to the day where she can hold them and squeeze them tight.
She's forever grateful to all of the first responders who rescued her, and they are grateful, too.
"It's rare when we get to see someone who went through something so traumatic walk back in and say thanks. It means a lot. That day wasn't about us, it was about our whole crew, everyone out there at the scene who helped. There were many. Seeing Marie here today, it reminds me why we do what we do," said Hernandez.
"We see people in their darkest most trying times; to have them come back and say thank you means a great deal," said Brothwell.