MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Donnell Gibson looks at a vacant lot in St. Paul and still sees the faces of three little kids.
“Something didn’t sit right. I didn’t know exactly why they were standing there,” Gibson said.
He was driving down Front Avenue on his way to work on April 1 when he saw three stunned kids outside a burning home.
“It was really, really, really hot. The house was shaking because the wind was blowing and you could feel the heat just steady going, it felt like an oven,” Gibson said.
After leading the kids to safety, he went inside and found a young girl and her mother.
“I was not going to leave without everybody leaving with me,” he said.
Choking on the thick smoke, Gibson’s rescue was far from over. Five more people were still inside.
“I was worried I didn’t have enough time,” he said.
St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler and Mayor Chris Coleman presented Gibson with the Fire Department’s highest honor for his life-saving heroics.
“He did an extraordinary thing that day, an extraordinary effort, an extraordinary … risk to himself,” Mayor Coleman said.
A family lost their home, but their lives were spared by the selfless and heroic acts of a stranger.
“I just thank God that I had the will to do it, but also that he gave me enough time to be able to do it and get away, so I’m very thankful,” Gibson said.
The family Gibson saved was not able to attend the ceremony. Their home was torn down and they were forced to move. City officials have not been able to contact them.
Gibson works for the St. Paul Parks and Recreation department. He graduated six years ago from the city’s Emergency Medical Services Academy — something that clearly gave him the confidence to act quickly in a crisis.