Veterans senior overcomes loss to help others

KATHLEEN -- Ali Adams has more experience overcoming tragedy than she’d like, but it hasn’t held her back.

Adams, who will graduate from Veterans High School with a 3.2 grade-point average Friday, said her experiences have prepared her for whatever happens.

“In a pressured moment, I’d like to be there because I’d give my best,” she said.

As Adams was wrapping up her eighth-grade year in Perry, she found out she would be moved to Veterans for high school. As she was adjusting to that new situation, she learned that her mother, Dana Adams, who was living in Savannah, had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

“She called me one day and said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but I don’t have too much longer,’” Adams said. “Me and my sister took that kind of hard.”

About a month later, Dana Adams died.

Adams, who lives with her father, Tony, said the Veterans staff was very understanding of her situation.

“It was difficult,” she said. “I think they all kind of knew. They knew what to say and what not to say.”

During the second semester of her freshman year, Adams enrolled in the school’s Air Force Junior ROTC program, where she met someone she called her mentor, Chief Peggy Miller.

Miller said Adams embodies the Air Force’s three main objectives: “integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do.”

“I think she’s what we want to see in a citizen, someone who puts everyone else first,” she said of Adams.

The senior showed that trait earlier this year. Two weeks after a car accident left her a little scraped up and without a car, Adams was riding to school with a friend, Chelsea Willard, when they noticed smoke coming from a house.

Adams recognized it as the home of 87-year-old Opal Alford.

“When I first saw which house it was ... she was always so nice to everybody,” Adams said. “The first thing I thought was, ‘Oh gosh, she might be in there.’”

With the help of other neighbors, Adams and her friend got in the home and pulled Alford out, but it was too late.

Even though she has since been told that Alford had likely been dead about 40 minutes by the time she got there, Adams still thinks about that day and how it might have gone differently.

“It’s still hard not to think what would have happened if we got there earlier,” she said.

Miller was still proud of Adams’ decision to attempt the rescue.

“She tries to go above and beyond all the time, so when she told me about that, it didn’t surprise me one bit,” Miller said.

Adams will continue to look out for others in her next step in life, as she plans to join either the Air Force or Coast Guard. She said her father gets “teary eyed” when he talks about how proud he is of the person she’s becoming, and Adams knows her father isn’t alone.

“I know this is what my mom would like me to do,” she said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.