ADELPHI, Md. — Survivors of a local house fire more than 57 years ago, met and thanked Tuesday one of the firefighters who helped save their lives as toddlers.
Observing that Facebook is good for more than cat videos, Michael Hart, of Rockville, said he used the social-networking site along with information from a recently discovered newspaper clipping and the assistance of Prince George’s County Fire and EMS spokesman Mark Brady to track down 84-year-old Edwin “Stu” Newman.
At the time of the August 1959 fire on 25th Avenue in Hyattsville, Maryland, Hart was 3, his sister Linda was 2 and Newman worked for the Chillum-Adelphi Fire Department.
“I never imagined that so many years later that I’d have the opportunity to meet you, and shake your hand and thank you for saving me that day,” Hart told Newman at their reunion. “It’s always been a defining moment in my life.”
Newman recalled finding Michael Hart unconscious, putting his breathing apparatus on the boy and carrying him out of the home to waiting medics.
“My part was over very promptly,” Newman noted humbly. “That was the only thing I was supposed to do,” he said of taking the boy to safety.
Linda Hart said that at the time of the fire her family was fragile.
“We had lost a younger brother to ‘sudden infant death’ just months before,” Hart said. “There was tremendous grief already.”
The gift of life that came with their being rescued, she said, was profound for her family.
“It’s not only that our lives were saved, it’s that the rest of our family was allowed to be much more whole,” Hart said.
Efforts now are underway to also identify the off-duty Prince George’s County police officer who played a pivotal role in the rescue. He lived nearby, brought a ladder to the scene and used it to enter a second story window to begin searching for the children.
Upon finding Linda Hart he carried her to safety, Brady said. Responding firefighters Newman and Sgt. Carl Harman, now deceased, also used the ladder to enter the home. Both children were taken to a hospital where they were treated and released.
Not long after the rescue in 1959, Newman joined the Prince George’s County Fire Department. During the search for background information on the rescue of the Hart children, it was also discovered Newman was never awarded appropriate retirement credentials when he retired two decades ago.
At Tuesday’s reunion ceremony — one day before marking 25 years of retirement — Newman received from Prince George’s Fire Chief Deputy Benjamin Barksdale a retirement ID, badge and challenge coin.
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