It was Dec. 28 when a horrific fire in a Bronx apartment building left families torn apart, devastated, and grappling with grief.
The fire, started by a 3-year-old boy who was playing with the kitchen stove, left a dozen people dead, including four children.
Private Emmanuel Mensah, 28, was in the apartment building at the time of the fire. A true American hero, Mensah sacrificed his own life to save neighbors from the deadly blaze.
Mensah was a member of the National Guard, and had returned to the Bronx for the first time since enlisting in December 2016.
When the flames erupted up the apartment building, Mensah escaped, but returned three times to rescue others.
Twice, Mensah made it out of the building safely, saving four lives in the process. But on his third rescue attempt, he never came out.
“Private Emmanuel Mensah was a first-generation immigrant, a soldier and a New Yorker,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated on Dec. 30. “He gave his life rescuing his neighbors in the Bronx fire.”
“His heroism exemplifies the best of our city,” the mayor continued. “Rest in peace.”
Kwabena Mensah, Emmanuel’s father, wasn’t surprised by his son’s sacrificial actions. “That’s his nature — he wants to help people out,” Mensah said of his son.
“I thought as a military man he may have gotten out already,” a proud and grief-stricken Kwabena Mensah expressed. “But like I said, God is in control.”
When the Mensah family immigrated to America from Ghana several years ago, Emmanuel wanted to serve his new country by joining the military.
“When he came here he just said, ‘Dad, I want to join the Army,’” Kwabena told the New York Post.
The U.S. Army approved the posthumous award of The Soldier’s Medal for PFC Mensah on Jan. 1, 2018. The state of New York awarded Mensah the New York State Medal for Valor posthumously on Jan. 2, 2018.
“His courageous and selfless act in the face of unimaginable conditions are consistent with the highest traditions of uniformed service and deserving of the highest possible recognition,” his citation says, reported by the U.S. Army.
Mensah will be missed by his military family as well as his immediate family. He was described as “calm and lovely,” with a huge heart for others.
“I knew from the moment I met him his heart was as big as our National Guard family,” stated Staff Sgt. Ruben Martinez-Ortiz. “He was ready to serve our nation and community. Pfc. Mensah was the embodiment of what our Army Values stand for.”
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