A “come to Jesus moment” is how the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker, described the experience of saving his neighbor from a fiery blaze last night. “I feel a sense of gratitude today to God that I’m here and still feeling kind of like I had my proverbial ‘come to Jesus’ moment in my life,” Booker said at a press conference today.
The New Jersey Star-Leger reported that the fire started “shortly before the mayor arrived home after a television interview” last night and that “five people were taken to the hospital for treatment: the mayor, a woman from the house and three members of his security detail.” Booker was treated for smoke inhalation and second-degree burns to his hand. The neighbor was listed in stable condition this morning at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey, with burns to her back and neck, according to The Star-Ledger.
Booker said he did not feel “bravery,” but “terror” when he thought he might not find the woman or get out of the house alive, even though he had pulled rank on the security detail who tried to stop him from executing a citizen rescue. “I really feel thankful to God, because just when I was falling down, trying to find somewhere to breathe, I finally heard her and found an opening where I could grab her,” Booker said. “Today is a surreal day for me. Everything has taken on a sense of depth to it. I think sometimes the biggest gratitude in life is to be able to put your feet on the ground and look at the world and say I’m still here. I’m very, very happy that this family that’s been so good to me over the years, that they’re all safe and sound.”
In response to the mayor’s heroism, The Atlantic published a “Super Mayor” quiz, Mashable posted a funny superhero mashup, and a Twitter meme broke out under the hashtag #corybookerstories. It included tweets like: “When Chuck Norris has nightmares, Cory Booker turns on the light & sits with him until he falls back asleep,” by @MilesGrant, “Cory Booker doesn’t tap into the Force, the Force taps into Cory Booker,” by @LordPalpatine, and “After the incident, Smoke was treated for Cory Booker exposure,” by @ZandarVTS.
I added my own tweet, which said, “@CoryBooker stopped to pick up my pen after delivering State of the City 2012, LOL.” It was no joke. I took note of the mayor’s kindness in the midst of the rollicking public event at which I conducted an on-the-fly interview with him for UrbanFaith because it struck me as a demonstration of habitual, unconscious selflessness when he did it. The parable of the faithful and unfaithful servants in Matthew 25: 14-28 came to mind then and again this morning when I heard news of his heroism. In the parable, the servant who has been faithful in the small things is affirmed by the Lord and put in charge of many. This is one more Cory Booker story that makes me wonder what God has in store for the passionate, energetic mayor of Newark—especially now that he’s lived through what he describes as a real-life “come to Jesus” moment.