Officers come to rescue with heroism, doughnuts
Officers Mark Haggerty (left) and Sean Fullerton helped evacuate the 350 residents of Norris Apartments, and even carried small children downstairs, when a fire broke out in a 10th-floor apartment.
Their names are Officers Sean Fullerton and Mark Haggerty, but you might want to call them heroes.
The two off-duty Campus Police officers were waiting for a train at Ninth and Berks, on their way home from their overnight shift on Dec. 16 at about 7:30 a.m., when they spotted heavy smoke coming from the upper floors of the Norris Apartments at 10th and Norris streets, four blocks away. After calling in to the Temple Police Communications Center, they flagged down a Philadelphia Gas Works security guard driving by and rode over to the fire site.
“A woman at the bottom of the stairwell was hysterical, saying there were people trapped up there,” Fullerton said.
The two officers ran up the stairs and tried to enter a burning 10th-floor apartment but were forced to back off out of concern the flames would spread throughout the floor.
“When we first got up there, there was thick smoke, and you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you,” Fullerton recalled.
Backup officers Nathaniel Moore and Sgt. Thomas Eichler were quickly on the scene, and the four-man team systematically evacuated the building’s 350 residents, guiding them out and carrying small children down the 10 flights of stairs to safety.
“We must have run up and down the stairs, I don’t know, maybe six times,” Fullerton said.
Firefighters from the Philadelphia Fire Department brought the two-alarm blaze, caused by careless smoking, under control at 7:55 a.m. SEPTA buses were deployed to the site for residents to have a refuge from the frigid temperatures while the fire was being controlled.
“Once I knew everything was going to be OK, it was a good feeling that I was able to help out. It was a real team effort,” Fullerton said.
When Vice President Bill Bergman was notified, he contacted Diane Gass from the Norris Street Development Council and arranged for coffee and pastries to be sent over for the displaced families.
“Capt. [Eileen] Bradley told Mark and me to get the [police] wagon and go to Dunkin’ Donuts to bring back coffee and doughnuts for everyone,” Fullerton said.
When they got back, the two had a cup of coffee, and then headed home.
“I love this job — it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Fullerton, who has been on the Campus Police force about a year. “I love being a cop.”
For Fullerton, 25, it was something of a career change: He had been a professional photographer, living in Ireland and selling his work to commercial distributors. He also did some underwater photography.
“I needed something I could feel proud of at the end of the day, something I’d be proud to tell my kids about someday, when I have them.”
Fullerton and Haggerty, 23, have deep family roots in law enforcement and firefighting. Their fathers are firemen, Fullerton’s brother is now a federal air marshal, after working for the Secret Service, and Haggerty’s brother is a fireman.
“Plus, I have uncles on both sides that are either firemen or cops,” added Haggerty, who worked as a volunteer fireman in Upper Darby while he was in high school, then as a policeman in Maryland before returning to this area.
With their “near-identical family backgrounds,” Haggerty said, it’s been easy for the two to bond, as working partners and friends, in the year they have been on the force.
“We’ve been through a lot of stuff together, and we work with really great people. And when something happens like that morning back in December, it feels good that everyone’s kind of happy about what you’ve done.”
- By Harriet Goodheart
Grounds crew aids child after three-story fall from window
|Temple grounds crew workers Marvin Overby and Alfonso Evans exhibited some heroics of their own during the winter break when they assisted a child who had fallen out of a window at 17th and Sydenham streets.
Overby and Evans were using shovels and rakes to clear a lot behind the Liacouras Center at Sydenham Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue on Jan. 7 when they heard the screams of a neighbor from the window of a home nearby. They investigated and found the boy, who had fallen out of a third-story window, in a yard two houses away from where he had fallen.
The pair broke through a gate to reach the boy, who was bleeding after apparently injuring himself on a fence after the fall. Overby and Evans called 911 and comforted the boy until rescue workers arrived. The boy, who escaped serious injury, was taken to Temple University Children’s Medical Center.
Overby and Evans, both of whom have worked in the maintenance department almost three years, said they were at the right place at the right time and downplayed their heroics, which garnered local media attention.
“If that was my child, I would have wanted someone to do the same thing,” Evans said.
- Barbara Baals