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Cory Booker's legend grows: Newark mayor saves woman from fire

April 13, 2012|By Rene Lynch

Cory Booker needs a cape, stat!

The Newark, N.J., mayor -- already lionized in some corners for his good deeds -- added to his list of praiseworthy actions on Thursday night when he raced into a burning home to help save a woman trapped inside. The woman, who suffered second-degree burns on her neck and back, is reported to be in stable condition. Booker got away with only minor burns and smoke inhalation.

And, of course, his heroics exploded into a national story overnight.

At one point Friday morning, "Cory Booker" was the most-searched term on Google this morning as the public tries to learn the details of Booker's heroics. NPR has crowned him "today's hero." And over on Twitter, the story has taken on a humorous life of its own, with social media types trying to outdo themselves with made-up #corybookerstories. (Example: "When Chuck Norris has nightmares, Cory Booker turns on the light & sits with him until he falls back asleep.")

A rising star in the Democratic Party, Booker, 42, is considered a possible gubernatorial candidate in next year's race. The elected leader of New Jersey's largest city -- one that battles chronic problems such as crime, drugs and violence -- Booker has been praised for actions that have had a way of grabbing the limelight.

After his election, instead of living in posh, mayorly quarters, he continued to live in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city to better stay connected with the people. During a 2010 blizzard that paralyzed the city, Booker grabbed a shovel and got to work. And when late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien began taking potshots at Newark, Booker turned the joke back on O'Brien, banning him from using Newark Liberty International Airport and demanding a public apology. The running "feud" ended when Booker made an appearance on the show to patch things up.

A Rhodes scholar with degrees from Yale, Stanford and Oxford, the social media-savvy Booker has also been interviewed by Oprah, who wanted to know all about his unorthodox approach to caring for his constituents.

His latest actions shouldn't hurt his political aspirations (unless someone accuses him of taking a job away from a firefighter).

Booker was returning home Thursday night when he saw his neighbor's home ablaze, he told "CBS This Morning." A shrieking woman said her daughter was still inside.

Firefighters had been called but had not yet arrived. The mayor's security detail tried to drag him away, but Booker feared that the young woman might die, Det. Alex Rodriguez told CBS. “Without thinking twice, he ran into the flames and rescued this young lady,” said Rodriguez, who was there and helped in the rescue.

Booker acknowledged he was scared. He ventured inside just as the kitchen erupted into flames and he couldn't immediately find the woman. Then she called for help, and Booker found her in a bed. The 6-foot-3 Booker threw her over his shoulder and ran for the exit.

“I punched through the kitchen and the flames and that's when I saw Det. Rodriguez. He grabbed her as well and we got her down the stairs and we both just collapsed outside,” Booker said.

“Honestly it was terrifying and to look back and see nothing but flames and to look in front of you and see nothing but blackness,” Booker said, adding that the incident gave him even more respect for the work of firefighters. He called the incident a “come-to-Jesus moment.”

Booker was treated for smoke inhalation and minor, second-degree burns, and his thumb and a finger on his right hand had to be bandaged. It wasn't enough to keep the mayor from tweeting, however.

“Thanks 2 all who are concerned. Just suffering smoke inhalation,” Booker signaled to his followers shortly after the incident. “We got the woman out of the house. We are both off to hospital. I will b ok.”

Early Friday, he added: "Thanks everyone, my injuries were relatively minor. Thanks to Det. Alex Rodriguez who helped get all of the people out of the house.”

The cause of the fire was unknown.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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