In a sometimes-tearful reunion, Raymond Conklin mingled and ate with firefighters, including Vic Villa, who helped lift him from the fiery wreck that claimed 25 lives.
"If they didn't get there on time, I wouldn't be here today," Conklin
said while visiting the Fire Station 87 in North Hills.
Conklin said he was riding in the first passenger car behind the Metrolink engine, which collided with a freight train shortly after leaving the Chatsworth station on Sept. 12. In the aftermath, Conklin was trapped in the twisted wreckage, and he never thought he would survive.
"I already said my goodbyes," he told KCAL. "I had made my peace, if you will."
"There was fire all around and I was pinned onto the floor and my legs were broke," he said.
At that point, he looked up and saw Villa standing over him.
"First thing he said to me was, `I'm going to die. Train's on fire, I'm going to die,"' Villa told Channel 9. "And I just looked at him and I said, `Bro, we're the fire department.' I cracked a big old smile and he found the energy to smile, which was, you know, in the situation..."
Conklin shared family photos with Villa and the other firefighters, bringing tears to Villa's eyes.
"Life is precious," he said. "And everyone's life is important."
Conklin said he wanted to visit the firefighters to give himself a sense of closure.
"I had, in my heart, if I didn't come here I wouldn't have helped my own healing, let alone help theirs, to come to grips with what happened that day."