A Georgia family of four is happy to be alive today, and happy that the family matriarch, 23-year-old Ashley Brown, made the gut-wrenching decision to drop her two children from a third-floor window to escape fire.
Brown of Stone Mountain, Ga., was in the family’s apartment around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday when smoke began to pour in under the front door from a fire in one of the building’s ground-floor apartments.
Trapped inside, Brown rushed her family out to the apartment’s balcony where she faced a dilemma: how to get her two young children, a 3-year-old and a 2-month-old, down from the apartment safely.
Three floors below, her neighbors were gathered, some yelling for her to keep the children on the balcony, and others calling for her to drop them down. “It’s scary, it’s definitely scary,” she said. “I couldn’t make my mind up and, for a minute, I was going back and forth.”
One of those on the ground calling for Brown to drop her kids down was Lawrence Fort, the neighbor in whose kitchen the fire started. “I just told her to drop the baby,” he said. “And I told her I promised her I would catch it. So I had to catch the baby.”
Brown said her first thought was to lower 2-month-old James down to safety using a rope her fiancé, a roofer, had in their apartment. Afraid that he wouldn’t be able to hang on, Brown put her trust in Fort and threw the baby from the window, where he landed safely in Fort’s outstretched arms.
Video captured by a neighbor’s cellphone shows Brown then used the rope to lower her 3-year-old daughter, Jayda , down to safety by strapping it onto the girl’s waist and arm.
Brown was preparing to lower her mother-in-law, Denise Watson, down as well when Dekalb County fire and rescue officials arrived and came to the aid both women.
“I’m guessing the whole ordeal lasted 10 or 15 minutes, but it felt like an eternity,” Brown told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
Brown told the paper that both of her children are doing fine after the fire, which sent two other people to the hospital as well.
“After that, I felt like getting renter’s insurance and sitting down to read the Bible,” she said of the ordeal. “I’m feeling blessed that my kids came through and that’s all that mattered.”
No one was seriously hurt in the fire, officials said, but about20 people were displaced and 12 apartments affected. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.