Sunday, April 15, 2012

Public Servant Citizen Hero

Newark Mayor Cory Booker saved a neighbor's life last week:

Newark Mayor Cory Booker was taken to a hospital Thursday night for treatment of smoke inhalation he suffered trying to rescue his next-door neighbors from their burning house.

"I just grabbed her and whipped her out of the bed," Booker said in recounting the fire. Booker told The Star-Ledger he also suffered second-degree burns on his hand.

The fire started in a two-story building on Hawthorne Avenue in the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood, shortly before the mayor arrived home after a television interview with News 12 New Jersey.

Five people were taken to the hospital for treatment: the mayor, a woman from the house and three members of his security detail. The woman was listed in stable condition at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston with burns to her back and neck.


After being released from the hospital, Booker recounted his experience at the fire and said he thought he might have to jump out of a window because of the heavy flames.

"We got everybody out of the house, but their daughter’s screaming, ‘I’m upstairs!’ " he told The Star-Ledger.

One of his security officers, Detective Alex Rodriguez, tried to stop him from going back in.

..."Now we actually get into a fight because his job is to protect me," Booker said of Rodriguez. Booker said when he reached the second floor, he was engulfed in flames and smoke.

"I suddenly had the realization that I can’t find this woman." Booker said. "I look behind me and see the flames and I think "I’m not going to get out of here. Suddenly I was at peace with the fact that I was going to jump out the window."

Then he heard her cries in a back bedroom.

"I just grabbed her and whipped her out of the bed," Booker said. The two made their way downstairs, where they both collapsed, Booker said.

Rodriguez, who had helped others out of the house said when he saw the mayor go in, he thought his career in protection was over.

"Once he went in, I said, 'Oh my goodness, this is it.' " Rodriguez, 39, said.


"Thanks 2 all who are concerned. Just suffering smoke inhalation," Booker tweeted. "We got the woman out of the house. We are both off to hospital. I will b ok."

Shortly after midnight, Booker tweeted an update, lauding the heroics of one of his security officers: "Thanks everyone, my injuries were relatively minor. Thanks to Det. Alex Rodriguez who helped get all of the people out of the house."

Sure feels nice to read about a politician who's a real-life hero.

I don't know what political ramifications might shake out however for Mayor Booker, but he's shown leadership in rebuilding his city from the top to the streets, and good leadership is a highly transferable skill.

Rushing into a burning building like that is pure leadership: leading the self. Without for a moment doubting his instincts, secure in his intellect, physical capability and clearly an alert individual, he directed his body into the heart of the catastrophe with a clear intention to bring that woman out alive.

Then, of course, he got lucky. God surely asks that we make our own luck, but the two of them were lucky to make it out of there alive.

Lucky that Mayor Cory Booker was present.

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