MODESTO — At just 23 years old, Zachary Oehrke knew how his life would end.
“I told myself I was going to die a heroin addict,” he said. “I told myself that was going to be my fate.”
His fate changed forever at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on November 2. He overdosed on heroin in the bathroom, and Port of Seattle Fire Captain David Washington saved his life.
“I remember telling him that you need to get a support system, not ever thinking that I was ever going to see him again,” Washington said.
Just a few weeks later, they reunited at the New Hope Recovery Center in Modesto where Oehrke is recovering. Washington’s chief recently called him into his office and asked if he would want to see the young man whose life he saved.
“I just started bawling because it resonated in my life, like this could be my son,” Washington told FOX40. “It doesn’t matter what nationality we come from, it matters how we care for each other and that’s what hit me the hardest.”
The pair have spent two days together, forging a bond that is built on a word tattooed on Oehrke’s arm — Hope.
“I feel that connection just as much and I can sit there and open up to this guy, not even just because he saved my life, just that we both believe in the same god,” Oehrke said. “We both know that this stuff doesn’t happen on accident, we both know there is a reason for everything that is happening.”
That reason has given Oehrke another chance at life and Washington a chance to see the impact he has made.
“This chance of a lifetime to come back into his life has changed my life too. It’s been something I’ll never forget,” Washington said.
A moment of darkness that has created a friendship both hope will inspire others.
“I can honestly say that moment in the airport, from the worst of it to the best of it, was probably the best thing for me that could have ever happened,” Oehrke said. “It took me to the point that I realized that this kills people and I’m one of the very few that gets a second chance.”