A day after he defied his security detail and ran into a burning house to save a woman's life, Newark Mayor Cory Booker says he's a good neighbor, not a superhero.
The mayor of New Jersey's largest city was treated and released from the hospital after suffering smoke inhalation and second-degree burns on his hands Thursday night.
With a bandage around the thumb and first finger of his right hand, Booker said he felt terror, not bravery as he dashed through the flames with the woman over his shoulder. Though many are hailing him as a hero, he said he did what anyone would have done.
"There are people who do this every day. There are firefighters who do this every day. I am a neighbor and I did what any neighbor would do," Booker said at a news briefing Friday.
The woman Booker helped save is in stable condition at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston with burns to her back and neck. The mayor described her as a close friend who has been his neighbor for six years.
The mayor said there were a few harrowing moments during the rescue, particularly when "something exploded" as he and his detectives ascended the stairs.
He described how he grabbed the woman out of her bed and threw her over his shoulder and ran, but then feared they wouldn't get out of the kitchen. Booker says he "punched through the flames," adding that it is "a very scary thing'' to look back and see nothing but flames and only blackness in front of him.
Flames were rolling on the roof and down the wall. Embers fell from the ceiling, burning the woman and showering the mayor, but he pushed forward.
"It was all adrenaline at that point. I thought we weren't going to make it," Booker said. "I want to kiss and hug a lot of folks that I'm still here."
The mayor had arrived at his home on Hawthorne Avenue in the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood just after the fire broke out next door and rushed toward the burning building.
His security detail tried to hold him back, but the mayor heard a woman inside the blazing building yell and demanded they release him.
Eventually the detective who was trying to hold him back relented and went inside of the burning building with Booker.
"I wasn't going to let him go in, but he said, 'If I don't go in this lady is going to die,'" recalled Detective Alex Rodriguez. "I was trying to hold him by the belt to keep him from going into the fire, but he gave me an order and I complied."
Lamar Hodge, the uncle of the woman, was also in the house when the fire broke out. He was among the residents Booker and his security detail helped rescue and told NBC New York how much he appreciated their efforts.
As for Booker, "He saved my niece," Hodge said. "He's a hero."
Hodge lives in the unit below his niece and said the flames prevented her from getting downstairs and escaping the flames. When he saw Booker leave the building, he said his niece was in the mayor's arms.
Booker, a prolific social media user, tweeted late Thursday about his experience.
"Thanks 2 all who are concerned. Just suffering smoke inhalation,'' Booker tweeted. "We got the woman out of the house. We are both off to hospital. I will b ok.''
The cause of the fire is not yet known.
The mayor is known for coming to the aid of his constituents, even helping them shovel snow during a blizzard that crippled the city and Northeast in 2010.
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