Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Race into home fire was a "come to Jesus moment"

(CBS News) Newark Mayor Cory Booker called it his "come to Jesus moment" when he ran into a burning building to save a neighbor's life.

Booker arrived home last night to discover his next-door neighbor's house on fire, and rescued a young woman trapped upstairs by carrying here through the flames, suffering second-degree burns in the process.

Newark Mayor rescues neighbor from fire, burns hand

On "CBS This Morning" Booker and Newark Police Detective Alex Rodriguez described their terrifying ordeal.

The mayor's security team discovered the fire and pounded on the door to alert residents, when an elderly woman said that her daughter was trapped upstairs.

At first Rodriguez would not let Booker into the burning house. "He basically told me, 'This woman is going to die if we don't help her,' and what can I say to that?," Rodriguez said. "I let him go and without thinking twice, he just ran into the flames and rescued this young lady."

Booker said that as he jumped through the kitchen on the second floor, "I actually wasn't thinking. When I got there and couldn't find her in all the smoke, looked behind me and saw the kitchen really erupting with flames all over the ceiling, that's when I had very clear thoughts that I'm not going to get out of this place alive and got ... very religious.

"It is a very, very scary thing. And I'd like to say that I, at that point I was feeling so courageous, but honestly, it was terrifying, and to look back, you can see nothing but flames. Look in front of you see nothing but blackness.

"Thankfully she started yelling out to me and I was able to find her through all the smoke. At that point I grabbed her."

He admitted he was "not gentle" with her - "I just sort of threw her over my shoulder and dragged her through the kitchen."

The burning kitchen was the only way out: "I was hoping there was going to be a window on the front, It was on the second story, I thought we could potentially get out, but that's when I had a lot of clear thoughts about, 'How we're going to get out?'

"I couldn't see anything but the flames coming out of the kitchen and I really had this moment where I thought, 'Okay. I think I'm trapped. I think we can't get out,'" he said.

So Booker punched through the kitchen and the flames. "Detective Rodriguez grabbed her as well and we got down the stairs and we both just collapsed outside the building."

Booker suffered second-degree burns and smoke inhalation. The woman suffered second-degree burns on her back.

"I feel very blessed," Booker said. "As the fire director told us, anything could have happened. Those things ignite so quickly, [and he's] very lucky to have gotten out there."

The mayor said, "Yesterday, all my problems were really big to me. Today things feel a lot more clear," Booker said. "And I have a lot more respect for firefighters!

"As my chief staff and others were teasing me, I'm ill-equipped to do firefighter union negotiations - 'These guys, give them everything!'"

To watch the complete interview click on the video player above.

Comments

Follow Us

The Newsroom