A true hero doesn’t think when faced with a life or death situation; they simply react.
Twenty-year-old Derrick Byrd showed his true heroic spirit recently when his sister Kayla’s house suddenly caught on fire. No one knows how the blaze began on the second floor, but it resulted in the entire Aberdeen, Washington, home going up in flames in a matter of minutes.
The family was trapped on the second floor by the raging inferno, so Derrick immediately began working with his sister to get her three children out safely. Kayla pried open a bedroom window while Derrick stood in the yard below, ready to catch the kids as Kayla tossed them down to safety. Derrick successfully caught 6-year-old Junior and baby Rory, but then Kayla lost her balance and fell from the roof herself.
“Kayla wanted to get the kids out so I ran downstairs even though I got burnt,” Derrick recalled. “Started catching the kids. I caught Junior and I caught Baby Rory out of Kayla’s window.”
With her mother and siblings on the ground, 8-year-old Mercedes froze in panic. She was too frightened to jump from the roof, staggering backward towards the burning home in her shock and fear. Crying out for her uncle to help her, Mercedes fell through the window and into the house.
That’s when Derrick jumped into action without a second thought for his own safety. “She was screaming my name,” he said. “So I wasn’t just going to let her sit there. I wasn’t going to let my niece die.”
“I just ran up the stairs and pushed through the fire. I could feel it burning me. I got her and took my shirt off and put it around her face so she wouldn’t breathe in any smoke and I just carried her out as fast as I could.”
Derrick suffered second- and third-degree burns on his face, back, and arms. He and the children were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center for treatment. Incredibly, even though he is badly wounded the young man’s spirits remain high and he has zero regrets for his actions that day. In fact, he says that if he had to do it all again, even if he died from the effort, he would do it to save his niece and nephews.
Fire investigators continue to look for causes, but meanwhile, the family’s neighbors and friends have started a food, clothing, and toy drive to replace their belongings. They may have lost all of their material possessions, but there’s no doubt that this would have been an even greater tragedy had it not been for Derrick’s bravery and quick response.
“I can’t say [I’m] a hero. I’d just say for my niece and nephews, I wasn’t going to let them die.”
Way to go, Derrick! It just goes to show that sometimes there’s no time to think, we just need to follow our gut instinct to help others no matter what the cost. Derrick may not consider himself a hero, but we definitely do.
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