A Prince George’s County family may have lost many of their belongings in a fire, but the loss could have been more costly if the family’s 13-year-old boy had not jumped into action.
Karen Lee said she and her family had just returned to their Lanham home Thursday night when she smelled smoke. So did her son Taji.
“Taji was like, ‘I smell something,’” Karen recalled. “And I was like, ‘I smell something, too.’”
It turned out a fire was growing in an upstairs bedroom. 13-year-old Taji went upstairs to see what was going on, while his mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, waited downstairs.
“There was a lot of smoke. It was kind of hard for us to breathe,” Taji said. “My first thought was to get everybody out.”
His mother, though, wanted to see what was happening despite having trouble walking.
“I was trying to tell him, ‘No, I want to go upstairs, I want to see what’s happening up there,’” Karen recalled.
With the fire spreading, Taji stopped his mother, forcing her out of the house.
“I had to kind of pick her up… carry her out of the house,” Taji said, explaining that her chances of being able to get out of the house on her own were “slim to none.”
“I was afraid she might not choke to death, or she might not be here,” he said.
“My son threw me out of the door – pushed me and his sister out the front door,” Karen said, admitting at the time she was upset her son defied her wishes. “He was screaming, ‘No, Mommy, I love you. I don’t want anything to happen to you. I don’t want you to die.’”
“The story could have been much different had she gone up those stairs and couldn’t get back out,” said Alrahn Lee, Taji’s father.
“I am very, very proud,” Karen said. “He’s my little hero.”
Once outside, Taji locked the front door so his family could not go back into the home. Neighbors called 911, and firefighters arrived shortly afterward.
Many of the family’s belongings were destroyed, but they say many of their neighbors have chipped in by donating food and clothes to the family.
“I’m overwhelmed with the kindness,” Karen said. “Hopefully we will pay that forward.”