LARGO — Once he told his buddies his idea, the excitement spread like wildfire.
Seven fellow firefighters helped Tim Anthony, a firefighter-paramedic with Largo Fire Rescue, give his girlfriend, Sarah Colcord, the surprise of her life — love life, that is.
On May 28, Anthony invited Colcord, an investigator for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, to take a ride in the bucket atop Truck 41 at the downtown fire station on Fourth Street SW.
"I told her I wanted to take her up and show her the sights to celebrate our 3½-year anniversary,'' said Anthony, 24.
Colcord arrived at the fire station a little before sunset. She noticed there seemed to be a few extra firefighters on duty, but Anthony explained there was training going on.
"But it was a ploy. Those firefighters were crafty,'' said Colcord, 24.
She climbed inside the bucket. Anthony strapped the safety buckle around her.
The driver of the truck, firefighter Scott Collins, lifted the couple about 100 feet off the ground. Slowly, he swung the couple around.
They saw downtown Tampa, the Don CeSar Beach Resort, downtown Clearwater.
"I was thinking the ride was very cool, and that we live in such a beautiful place,'' said Colcord, who graduated from Seminole High in 2005 and attended the University of Central Florida.
After a few minutes, Anthony, who is from Orlando and also attended UCF, loosened her safety strap.
"Look down,'' he said.
She moved closer to the edge and peeked.
With the help of his co-workers, on the roof of the firehouse Anthony had strung firehoses together in a message: "Sarah marry me.''
Colcord took a deep breath. She stared at the words and stood perfectly still.
"It was a long, long pause,'' Anthony recalled.
He pulled an engagement ring out of his pocket.
"I took her hand and I said, 'Sarah Marina Colcord, will you marry me?' ''
It was one of those moments when her heart felt like it just couldn't beat any faster, Colcord recalled.
Although the couple has been getting more and more comfortable with each other, they had not been talking a lot about a wedding, said Colcord.
"I was stunned, and time stopped for a second,'' she said. "I looked over and saw him smiling, and as soon as I could breathe, I said, 'Yes, I will marry you.' "
For Anthony, who met his fiancee when they were both working as part-time servers at an Orlando restaurant during college, Saturday's proposal was several months in the making.
"I had the idea of doing it since about the time I started in the department (about six months ago), but I had to clear it with senior firefighters,'' he said. "Everybody immediately got on board to help.''
One of his bosses, Lt. Emmet Sands, enjoyed watching the whole thing.
"When he asked if he could do it, I joked with him and said, 'I hope she says yes,' " he said.
The firefighters started laying out the hoses early in the day. "Everyone was here before 8 a.m. putting the words together,'' Sands said.
And after Colcord said yes, the story got out.
"It's created a fun jealousy among the different women in the department,'' joked Sands.
"I've heard some women say that they were envious and wished their husband was that romantic.''
Since the proposal, Anthony and Colcord have aimed to just enjoy the moment.
"We've been celebrating with our friends and family. We really haven't started discussing the actual wedding plans yet, but I expect we'll keep it fairly moderate,'' Colcord said.
There's one thing she has already planned.
"I definitely want all the guys from the firehouse there.''
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.