Four teenage boys in Sapulpa, Oklahoma are gaining widespread praise for their act of bravery. The boys, ages 14 to 17, rushed into a 90-year-old woman's home as it was burning — and got her out unharmed.
The woman, Catherine Ritchie, was getting ready for bed when she turned around and saw her bed completely engulfed in flames, her daughter, Missy Nicholas, writes in a blog post. "She made an attempt to extinguish the flames herself by throwing blankets and pillows on the fire," Nicholas wrote.
The billowing smoke overwhelmed her and Ritchie quickly got disoriented, the blog post continues. She tried to flee but got lost in the thick smoke and ended up opening her closet door instead of her bedroom door. She repeatedly pushed the emergency button she wears as she tried to escape the flames, which were engulfing her bedroom.
As the fire raged inside Ritchie's house, across the street were four teen boys who had just walked outside and smelled smoke.
"Not an adult in sight," Nicholas writes. "4 kids who took immediate action to save an elderly woman who they couldn't guarantee was home and who 3 of them had never even met."
The boys did not hesitate. "One started breaking the glass on the front door. One called 911. One went to the back door and began kicking it in. One went to the neighbors for an ax and help," Nicholas's blog post continues. Fourteen-year-old Nick Byrd was the first to break into the house. He found Ritchie in the hallway and scooped her up.
He carried the elderly woman to safety and the other three boys also got away from the burning home unharmed. Firefighters soon arrived and extinguished the fire.
"Kids who are told about all the things they aren't old enough to do, saved the life of the most precious and beloved woman we know," Nicholas writes. "Courageous young men. Young men who risked their own lives, their own safety, perhaps their good standing with their parents who might have chosen for them to do otherwise."
She identifies the boys as 17-year-old Wyatt Hall, 16-year-old Dylan Wick, 16-year-old Seth Byrd and 14-year-old Nick Byrd.
Ritchie's daughter professed her gratefulness to the young men, thanking them profusely in her blog post.
"Thank you for your selfless acts of heroism and courage. Thank you for not allowing this to be the tragic end to our mother's amazing life. Thank you for staying with her, hugging her, and helping her feel less alone until we could get to her," she wrote. Nicholas signed the blog on behalf of her all of her mother's 10 children and 42 grandchildren.
The four young men didn't know who Ritchie was, or that she had so many kids and grandkids who love her, but they did know she needed help. They risked her life to save her, and that risk paid off.
"Ever since that night, my life has just changed ... for the better," Wyatt Hall said in an interview with KTUL-TV. The story of the boys' heroism has gone viral and they have gained widespread recognition, but what matters most is that they saved a life.