Tot's Rescue Showed Valor, Training and Grace Under Pressure

NY Daily News - November 27, 2011

by Jimmy Breslin

Firefigher Dave Newbery and fellow Bravest save little Josiah's life

As he is exactly 8 months old, Josiah Alexis did not understand that the bedroom around him had walls of flames. Nor did he understand that he had become the subject of a 911 fire alarm with people reported trapped. When fire licked his bare little body, Josiah screamed until he passed out. This is the worst, the bleakest.

And here are people at their most glorious. They are the firefighters of New York who are at this Park Slope fire in two minutes and change and come booming and stamping up the flight of stairs and crashing into the fiery bedroom with a hose filled with water and hearts filled with the ambition to take on anything.

They ran through the desperate danger and hardly thought about anything except saving those inside. There was a baby in the blaze. That left no room in the hurrying mind for anything else. No surprise here. This is about firefighters on the job.

One of them, Dave Newbery, 39, from Rescue 2, was quickly in the fire inside the building. He followed the men who had a hose line and went up the stairs and bashed down anything solid in the way and put water on the flames. Through those flames came the screams of tiny Josiah, lying on the floor of the second-floor bedroom. Then the screams stopped. Newbery did not. He went through the flames and the smoke and that's all you're going to read here because Newbery does not make speeches about heroism.

Many working the fire report that Newbery pushed up to where the baby was and whisked him off the floor. The tiny child was now inert. Newbery clutched the baby to chest and started out. Right away, he knew the tiny child clad in only a diaper was not breathing. Newbery could find no pulse. He put his mouth to the child's and tried to give the baby a breath. He ignored the danger of the fiery walls and ran with this child out of there at a sprinter's speed. He tore down the flight of stairs and burst out and ran into Andrew Hartshorne of Ladder Company 110 on Tillary St.

He handed the baby in his arms to Hartshorne. Right away, Hartshorne's two thumbs pressed the baby's chest in a rhythm. His airway had to be opened by Hartshorne's hands. Others from the engine company pushed oxygen into the baby's lungs. A fire company truck pulled up and EMS equipment was brought out to work on the baby and other fire victims.

Hartshorne, at 36, brought years of training to such horrific moments as this. He had the baby tilted so the air passages could be swabbed clean of anything blocking his throat. Try as he might, the baby still was not breathing.

At last, the work drew halting but saving breaths from the tiny body. A fire ambulance arrived, and Hartshorne put the baby in the hands of an ambulance worker who brought this most precious armful to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center on the East Side of Manhattan.

Hartshorne is a handsome man with short black hair whose mother was a nurse at Central Islip on Long Island with a husband and three children. The mother began to drill into him as a boy the life of medicine and patients. He graduated from college on Staten Island and now, at 36, he is one of a crew of 16 that at lunchtime sits at round tables on the first floor of the firehouse on Tillary St. in downtown Brooklyn. Hundreds of times, the alarm high on the wall has caused them to spill off the lunch table chairs and through a door to the engines and on to a fire.

A picture taken of Hartshorne carrying the baby out of the wreckage ran on the front page of the Daily News. It will be something that people will look at in wonder for the next hundred or so years. One Joe Marino, who took the picture, is the perfect daily newspaper photographer, one who will now have to cope with journalism fame for the rest of his lifetime. He is only in his 30s now.

He had amazing fortune -- he happened to be visiting a friend around the corner from the fire scene when the alarm went off in his pocket. He raced on foot to the scene and right away a police sergeant pushed him away, then yanked his press card off. During this melee, out of sheer workingman's habit, he kept shooting. One of the shots was of Hartshorne carrying the baby. It caused somewhat of a riot when people at the paper saw it.

He immediately was interviewed twice by the newspaper lawyers about the shoving and the yanking of the press card by some police officer. That appears headed to court.

Later, Hartshorne was eating lunch in the firehouse and his buddies who had seen the newspaper started chanting, "Hero! Hero!" Hartshorne answered with some dismissive remark.

And it all was good humor until the alarm on the wall sent them spilling out of the firehouse again and on their way to answer another call.