"I've known him my whole life. He's done so much for us it was the least I could do," Herskovits said.The 21-year-old Kew Gardens Hills resident's mother rushed upstairs to wake him up at about 7:30 a.m. Jan. 2 when flickering lights in their 73rd Terrace house led her to think there was an electrical fire in their walls."In the distance I heard a smoke alarm and I thought it was in the attic" where her son Ross' bedroom is located, Janet Herskovits said.Assured that her son was safe and right behind her, they followed the sound of the smoke detector out the front door and over to the next house, she said."When we got outside we saw smoke billowing out of our neighbor's house and the home health aide was outside," Ross Herskovits said.But still trapped inside the semi-attached house was the man who had been the first to bring chocolates and welcome the Herskovits family when they moved to the neighborhood in 1983, who had watched Ross Herskovits and his siblings if they were locked out of their own house and who had signed for the family's daytime deliveries.Without thinking twice, the young man rushed into the building and the heavy smoke to find the man he only identified as Gilbert to protect his neighbor's privacy."I got on my hands and knees and crawled up the stairs. I found him sitting on a folding chair in his bedroom," Herskovits said. "He's 84 years old with multiple medical problems. He walks slowly with a cane or a walker. There's no way he would've made it on his own.""Gilbert, we have to go," Herskovits told his neighbor and gathered up the older man in his arms. He carried the neighbor outside where Herskovits' mother was anxiously waiting for the pair with blankets and a chair for the older man.While she waited for her son and neighbor to get out of the burning house, Janet Herskovits called 911 to summon the Fire Department, which arrived soon afterward. Gilbert was treated for smoke inhalation at New York Hospital Queens and released, they said."The fire marshal asked me if I wanted to sign up" to join the department, Herskovits said. A recent Queens College graduate who hopes to teach social studies to grades seven through 12, Herskovits said he has been in touch with the marshal since the day of the fire.Janet and Ross Herskovits said they were told the cause of the fire was a malfunctioning boiler. The FDNY was unable to confirm the cause of the fire but said two residents with minor injuries were taken to New York Hospital Queens. Janet Herskovits said the fire marshal told her that fatal fires most often occur in buildings where the smoke detectors do not work."Make sure you check the batteries," she said.Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2008 Community News Group
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