An Open Letter Of Thanks

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.

53 thoughts on “An Open Letter Of Thanks

    1. Davis Petit

      You American Heroes all deserve MEDALS OF VALOR for your heroism. Awesome proof that we are Making America Great Again! It’s too bad you’re not old enough to vote! If any of you ever run for Office you’ll always have this Okie’s Vote! It wouldn’t surprise me at all if you choose to be fire fighters! Whatever your aspirations/ambitions in this life I Pray that you get your best wishes in this life because you DESERVE THEM!

      1. David Moro

        Don’t politicize this, don’t diminish what these brave young men did for their fellow human being. This was all them and maybe their parents.

      2. Frank

        Politicizing the actions of these teens and the gratitude expressed by the writer is unnecessary and a distraction.

    2. Vicki Helton

      God gave these young men this opportunity and I pray they each use it to make wise decisions for their future. What an awesome outcome for all!

  1. Mark Misner

    Way to go guys! We never know when we will be called upon for something we feel we are not totally trained to handle. Way to step up and save Ms Ritchie. There couldn’t have been a more positive outcome to such a terrible situation.

  2. Barb Patterson

    Yes, THANK YOU to those heroic young men! Mrs. Ritchie means the world to so many, and to the world you have shown what amazing young people you are. Thank you and thanks to your parents for raising such caring gentlemen.

  3. Theresa Galipeau Reeves

    Thank God for those young men who were willing to help your mother and turned what could have been a horrible outcome completely around. It has been years since I have seen your mother but I remember how sweet she was and she always had a smile for everyone. I am so glad she is ok.

  4. DeEllen Bush

    Yes, praise God for the young men and their selfless heroism acts they performed. May God continue to to bless their lives just as He continues to bless sweet, precious, Katherine Ritchie, her family, loved ones, and friends. We love you, Katherine, and are so grateful for you!

  5. Kathy Brumley Hastreiter

    Dear, Missy, first of all I love the Ritchie’s and the Sontag’s. I am so grateful your precious Mother was saved from what shook her life and all of her children’s lives to the core. I, like you, wouldn’t know what I would without my precious Mother. All I can say, is God isn’t finished with your Mother yet. Even at the age of 90 years old, He can still use someone like her for Kingdom’s purpose.

    Thank you for posting this new about your Mother. I graduated with Karen and yes, you happen to know my precious Mother, Mrs. Erma J. Brumley. May the Angels surround your Mother’s home and keep her safe and blessings fall like rain. Paula Kathy Brumley Hastreiter, Houston, Texas

  6. Lynn Warner

    What a wonderful story of heroism and human sacrifice for another. God bless the heroes and the Ritchie family who has meant so much to this community.

  7. Stephanie Piguet

    So thankful for these courageous young men! I haven’t met your mother, but I know she raised an amazing woman in you, Missy. Crying happy tears for you and all
    Of your family!

  8. Craig B

    Four fantastic young men. Way to go guys! Young folks can do amazing things if given the chance. As an Air Force cop I worked with young men and women through the BSA Law Enforcement Explorers program. That was over twenty-five years ago.

    Somebody in these four boys is doing something right.

    Well Done Lads!

  9. Gene Flegal

    Great Job Guys. You are what the world needs more of now. Are people who care. You are truly Hero’s. And I thank you myself for being one. Your Mother and Dad’s have done a great job with you all. And I wish you the Best Of Life…

  10. Mike

    Glad to see that four young boys can put faith back into the millennials so many millennials would’ve went in and just rob the place your parents raised you right

  11. Shirley Hester

    Beautiful story and so grateful for these young heroes..God bless them and God bless your lovely mother!

  12. Herman Vogel

    “Hero”, One who puts their life or reputation on the line to either save another’ life or make another’s life better.
    These are such Men

  13. Mark & Mary Stoneburner

    This story of valor and selflessness came across my feed on June 6, 2019. Very fitting as we remember D-Day. These young men give us hope for America!
    We will always need heroes like you–thank you!

  14. An Internet Friend

    What a fantastic ending to a terrifying near-tragedy!

    Dylan, Nick, Seth, Wyatt!

    Mad respect from an Internet Stranger and Fan!

    You guys really pulled it together!

    Kicking the door..!
    Calling 911!
    Seeking out an axe and extra help…!
    Finding a way in!
    Carrying her out…!

    Wonderful thinking. Smart action.


    Way to go Men.

    World needs more of you!

    All the best!

    A Fan in Boston

  15. Edna

    I read this thru thankful tears for these fine young men! I don’t know any of you but what a great deed from all of you! I know you’re hero’s to this sweet lady and her family. May God bless you all, you will do many great things in your lifetimes,

    1. Kathryn Lacy

      4 amazing young men! I don’t know anyone involved but their act of caring and compassion for another human being has restored my faith in humanity. There are adults who wouldn’t have done what they did. God bless everyone involved.

  16. Betty Landesman

    God bless you four young men! You are her guardian angels! I’m truly happy for you saving this precious lady! God guided and protected you! Thank you, thank you, thank you! ❤

  17. Pingback: Teens rush inside burning home to save 90-year-old neighbor – Thinking Port

  18. Manny V Tibe

    It is the way the world and our kids should be, caring, selfless and looking out for his or her fellow human being. I salute these kids and their parents for bringing them up in such a way that everyone of us would be proud to call them our children. Thank you for setting an example for the children of this generation. God bless all 4 of you and your families
    Dylan Wick – 16 years old, Nick Byrd – 14 years old, Seth Byrd – 16 years old, and Wyatt Hall – 17 years old!!

  19. Sherry

    A Great Big THANK YOU to those fine Young Men for putting their lives in jeopardy to save someone they did or didn’t know and an even Bigger THANK YOU to the Parents for raising those Fine Young Men. God Bless All Y’all ❤❤❤❤

  20. Kathryn Lacy

    4 amazing young men! I don’t know anyone involved but their act of caring and compassion for another human being has restored my faith in humanity. There are adults who wouldn’t have done what they did. God bless everyone involved.

  21. Susan

    I would sure hope the local Police or Fire department recognize these young men publicly, if they already have not.

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  28. John

    Fifteen year firefighter here.

    Tears in my eyes. Swelling over with PRIDE for these young men.

    Way to go, guys! GOD BLESS YOU.

    Hoping you fulfil your dreams, especially if you become firefighters!

  29. DeniseinVA

    So wonderful to read this story in the news. Just had to come over and add my thanks to those four young brave men for saving your sweet mother. They did not think of their own safety. Instincts kicked in and they did not hesitate. Does the heart good to learn of these young heroes.

  30. Frank

    It’s so refreshing to read of bravery, kindness, and youth taking action to help others. You guys did the right things at the right time and Mrs Ritchie is still here to smile for the picture. I’m not sure it gets any better than this!

    Thanks for showing that we still care about our neighbors and friends.

  31. John Reynolds

    These are fine young men and bravo to them for their selfless act in saving this woman’s life! Your parents raised you well. It is important to note this has NOTHING to do with America. These are fine young men full stop. They could have been in France, Germany, Australia, Japan, etc. They just happen to be in the US that’s all.

  32. Pingback: A group of teen boys saved their 90-year-old neighbor from her burning home - VT News Networks

  33. richard r mcquary

    These young heroes had maybe ten seconds to recognize the problem, form a strategy and act – – amazing and wonderful.


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