A mother who was trapped inside the Bronx high-rise fire that killed 17 people and injured dozens more was on the verge of giving up hope that she and her children would be saved — when a complete stranger stepped in to rescue them, in an incredible story of survival.
Fatima Wood said that she and her young children were struggling to make it out of the 19-story building as smoke quickly filled the hallways. The mother and her children were trying to make it down from the ninth floor.
They thought they were stuck.
That's when they finally reached a stairwell, and a neighbor they had never met before stepped in to help.
"Me and that man had bumped into each other, he asked if we needed help bringing the kids down. I said yea, so he grabbed my daughter," Wood said.
That neighbor was Mohamed Keita, who lived toward the top of the building and like so many others, was running down the stairwell trying to evacuate. But even as he was running for his life, he didn't hesitate to offer a hand in the mother's most desperate moment. He said he carried the 3-year-old girl out to safety and got her to an ambulance — before the rest of her family even made it out of the building.
"As soon as I got down, the kid was cold, she didn't have enough clothes. So I took off my jacket and I wrapped her in my jacket," Keita said, before he was able to get the child medical attention.
"I was sitting down, shaking. People were just going through, they couldn't breathe, they were performing CPR, cardiac arrest," he said, visibly shaken. "I've never seen something like it, so I was just shaking the whole time."
Both Keita and the young girl, Kween, were taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, and both are expected to be OK. Both are were out of the hospital Sunday night, Kween reunited with her mother.
"I cried all day, even when we got here (to the hospital) and we finally see her, I was still crying because it's so traumatizing," Wood said. She and another child eventually made it out of the building after getting help from firefighters.
In Photos: Bronx Blaze, Worst NYC Fire in 30+ Years, Leaves Dozens Gravely Injured
When asked what could have happened, Wood said simply: "Only God knows. It could've been way worse.
As for the man who helped the mother and child in their time of need, Keita wasn't looking to be a hero — just do what is right, and was thankful he was at the right place at the right time to help the mother and young girl.
"I was just trying to do the right thing. Everybody was struggling, lots of people lost their lives, I was just trying to do the right thing," Keita said.
Wood said that she "can't wait to see (Keita), to show him how grateful I am." The two reconnected later Sunday night.