A true story of heroism and sacrifice — exactly what we’ve come to expect from those who serve.
A soldier, home on Christmas leave, saved several lives when the apartment building he was living in became consumed by fire. PFC Emmanuel Mensah, fresh out of boot camp, had returned to his Bronx apartment to enjoy the holiday with friends and family but ended up giving his life to save others.
“He brought four people out,” said his uncle, Twum Bredu, who lives next door. “When he went to bring a fifth person out, the fire caught up with him.”
Private Mensah was found in Apartment 15, his uncle said, but he lived in Apartment 11, with a friend of his father’s who was at home with his wife and four children.
Private Mensah, a decorated soldier who had been awarded a medal for marksmanship and was planning to join the military police, got that family to safety, then pulled out four more people, his uncle said, before returning to the building.
He never emerged; the authorities said he died of smoke inhalation.
The fire cut a deadly path through the building, with four children among the victims.
His father, beside himself with grief and full of pride, said his son had wanted to be a soldier since he and the family moved to America from Ghana six years ago:
The “calm and lovely” young patriot had set his heart on becoming a soldier when the family moved to the US from their native Ghana five or six years ago, Kwabena said.
“When he came here he just said, ‘Dad, I want to join the Army,’ ” he recalled.
“At first I didn’t agree with him, but I decided that’s his choice.”
The father, who lives next door to the now-gutted building, had spent much of Thursday and Friday visiting hospitals, waiting for word from his son and holding out hope he was still alive.
“I came home praying for something good, but unfortunately it’s bad,” he said. “He never made it out.”
Alexander Hamilton said, “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” Of course, there are heroes in everyday life — not all of them heroes because they pull people from burning buildings. But the selfless act of giving up your life trying to save strangers from death is a special kind of heroism that seems to me to be most common in the military and among our first responders.
Is it because these jobs are more of a calling than a vocation? PFC Mensah felt compelled to serve his adopted country and in so doing, took on a responsibility that private citizens do not. He kept going back into that burning building willingly, not thinking of the consequences as much as he knew it was his job to try and save lives.
There have been many on the left who have questioned Americans who show respect and deference to those in uniform. They probably think PFC Mensah was stupid for doing what he did and should not be recognized.
For the rest of us, we honor his service and sacrifice.