Seven children’sisters, brothers, and cousins’were playing in an apartment building in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. All the children were younger than 5. The youngest, 2 years old, had a book of matches he had found and was playing with them on the bed.
Suddenly the bedspread caught fire. The other children screamed and ran. The 2-year-old boy, afraid he was in trouble, ran to another room and jumped onto the bed, covering his head with the blanket.
In another part of the building, 11-year-old Jason Dent had just settled down to watch television. Suddenly he heard screams. Following the sound of the screams, Jason and his sister Catina ran to the staircase. Six children raced down the stairs from an upstairs apartment building and ran past them.
“What’s happening? What is it?” Catina demanded.
Jason looked up the stairs, his heart thudding wildly against his chest. One of the windows was unusually bright, and the acrid smell of smoke drifting down the stairs stung the back of his throat. “Fire! I think it’s a fire!” Jason shouted.
Although the children had all fled to the safety of the street, screams were still coming from the apartment.
One of the kids is still up there, Jason thought. Without thinking of his own safety, he ran up the staircase. A voice he believed to be God’s whispered in his ear, leading him to the room where the 2-year-old boy sat sobbing and screaming on the bed, his head half covered with the blankets.
“God, please help me get through this,” Jason prayed. Through the open master bedroom door he saw the flames that had already consumed the bedspread licking hungrily at the curtains.
“Come on, we’ve got to get out of here!” Jason told the little boy. He grabbed the child and ran for the door.
As he passed the master bedroom he heard the windows cracking. Fear shot through him. Gripping the child tighter, he raced down the stairs. He entered his family’s apartment and tried to set the boy down, but the child clung to him, terrified, and kept screaming, “I want my mommy! I want my mommy!”
“It’s going to be OK,” Jason told the boy. “Your mother’s coming.” The child slowly released his grip on Jason and slipped to the floor, where he looked around him with a sooty, tear-stained face.
“I called the fire department,” Catina said.
Then Jason realized that the danger wasn’t over. Their apartment could catch fire too! “Let’s get out of the house until the fire department gets here,” Jason urged.
Within minutes the fire trucks and the police arrived. Firefighters raced into the building, dragging fire hoses behind them. The flashing lights on their trucks sent shafts of red light bouncing around the neighboring apartment buildings. A police officer pulled Jason aside and questioned him about the fire.
“You did a good job, son. I’m real proud of you,” the police officer told him.
“It wasn’t hard,” Jason said. “I would do it again if I had to.” Jason had fulfilled the Bible’s command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
Reprinted from Sunny Side Up, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1997.
Written by Celeste perrino Walker and Eric D. Stoffle
Illustrated by Mariano Santillan