FARMINGTON — It's as simple as saying thanks.
For 12-year-old Esther Rogge, showing appreciation to those who do selfless -- and often dangerous -- work that goes largely unnoticed is worth the effort.
Three years ago, Rogge was sitting in the back seat of her parents' minivan waiting at an intersection when a pickup truck smashed into the van, dislodging the seat she was belted into and pinning her against the front seat.
The first people to arrive at the scene were Farmington firefighters who helped Rogge out of the van and cared for her until an ambulance came to take her to the hospital.
"I was in shock, but the fire department helped calm me down," Rogge said. "My legs were pushed up against the seat, but even though it was scary, they responded so quickly and really made me feel like everything was going to be okay."
Rogge, who has been a ballet dancer since she was barely out of diapers, worried that the accident that totaled the family car had possibly hurt her legs, costing her any future at the barre.
"Esther is strong in so many ways," her dad Steven Rogge said. "She had a mild fracture to her neck and a sprained meniscus in her knees, but after a quick recovery, she was dancing again."
It was around that time that she wanted to express her gratitude for the expert way in which the fire department helped her family in a moment of need.
With help from her mom, Diana, and dad, the grateful family began dropping by the station to bring home-baked goods for the firefighters.
"Our fire department is there for us when we need them and they do their job without any real thanks a lot of the time," Esther Rogge said.
Last week, Esther and her family came by Station One on N. Auburn to bring another homemade token of their appreciation, a statue of a firefighter, painted gold, atop a wood base she and her dad crafted. The statue came with an engraved plaque that Esther convinced a business she saw in the mall to engrave her words of thanks at a generous discount.
Not satisfied to stop there, she wrote a three-page letter of thanks, which she read to the department.
"There wasn't a dry eye in the (station) house," her dad said. "'I don't want people to take you for granted,' Esther told the fire crew."
Since Esther's initial wish to say thanks to fire department, the Rogge family made a steady practice of making the community's unsung heroes feel appreciated.
"We just think of how grateful we are to have such courageous and selfless people working each day to make a difference in people's lives," Diana Rogge said. "We have since made it official with the Rogge family thank-you campaign."
The Farmington family often spends their time adopting fire, police and military recruitment centers to write words of thanks and deliver them. Esther and her dad have also created works of art to enunciate their appreciation, or purchase what they can find locally.
They bought a brass bell and together crafted a stand out of wood in a Southwestern style to honor the 343 police, fire and emergency workers killed in New York on 9/11. The bell is positioned in the front lobby of Station One.
"It's very humbling and moving to us to receive such a unique and touching show of support from a young person in our community," said Battalion Chief David Burke. "We do what we do because of our mission to protect and assist people in this town, but Esther's gift is truly inspiring to us. We're looking for a special place to place it."
Esther's outreach even got the notice of Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts, who went to meet her and the Rogges and thank her for taking special notice of the department.
Esther, who will be a seventh grader this fall at Hermosa Middle School and was inducted this year into the National Junior Honor Society, has also gotten attention -- and thank-you-writing help -- from some of her friends.
"She will have sleepovers at our place and invite a bunch of friends over," her mom said. "But before any movie is played or popcorn popped, she's got them all writing thank-you cards to police officers. She constantly surprises us."
One officer wrote Esther to tell her that he keeps her card in his patrol car and looks at it from time to time to remind him why he does the hard work he does, Diana Rogge said.
Often the Rogges get dumbstruck looks of shock or suspicion, which Diana Rogge attributes to the unfortunate scarcity of praise these days.
"They deserve the thanks and more," Esther Rogge said. "And I want them to know I care."
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.