Two weeks ago, my 90-year-old mother, Catherine Ritchie, was preparing herself for bed at around 9pm. After brushing her teeth and hair, she turned around to find her bed completely engulfed in flames. She made an attempt to extinguish the flames herself by throwing blankets and pillows on the fire. The smoke and heat were so overwhelming that she immediately got disoriented, gave up fighting the fire, and decided to flee. She pushed the emergency call button she wears on her necklace, called 911, and attempted to get out of her now engulfed bedroom. She walked into the closet several times thinking it was the door that leads to the hallway. It wasn’t. She couldn’t find her way out. She was stuck. Smoke everywhere.
Across the street, 4 boys saw the smoke and reflection of flames. Not an adult in sight. 4 kids who took immediate action to save an elderly woman who they couldn’t guarantee was home and who 3 of them had never even met. One started breaking the glass on the front door. One called 911. One went to the back door and began kicking it in. One went to the neighbors for an ax and help. Within minutes, a door was kicked in by a 14-year-old child who found my mother in the hallway outside of her bedroom and picked her up in his arms. Kids who are told about all the things they aren’t old enough to do saved the life of the most precious and beloved woman we know. Courageous young men. Young men who risked their own lives, their own safety, perhaps their good standing with their parents who might have chosen for them to do otherwise, and they carried my mother out of her burning home into the street, where firetrucks and ambulances would soon arrive.
Dylan Wick – 16 years old, Nick Byrd – 14 years old, Seth Byrd – 16 years old, and Wyatt Hall – 17 years old, thank you! Thank you for your selfless acts of heroism and courage. Thank you for not allowing this to be the tragic end to our mother’s amazing life. Thank you for staying with her, hugging her, and helping her feel less alone until we could get to her. Thank you for being the kind of young men who thought about another person above yourselves. Thank you for staying safe yourselves as well. Thank you to your parents who obviously raised you in such a way that lead to you making life saving and heroic decisions on behalf of someone else. Thank you for more than we know how to thank you for! We will forever be indebted to the time you bought for us and the example you set for us. God Bless each of you for being such a blessing to us.
Michael Ritchie, Karen Ritchie Sontag, Pat Ritchie, Jimmy Ritchie, Kelly Ritchie, John Ritchie, Tim Ritchie, Tom Ritchie, Missy Ritchie Nicholas, Ryan Ritchie, and 42 very grateful grandchildren.