On Monday afternoon on West 172nd Street, Eyewitness News was told that a worker was refinishing the floors inside an apartment in Washington Heights when the room burst into flames. Forced out by the blistering heat and smoke, the worker straddling the windowsill screaming for help.
In those few moments of panic, which must have felt like an eternity, eyewitnesses say their main goal was to keep the worker from jumping out of the fifth floor window onto the concrete below.
"I could see in his eyes, panic. He was about to jump," said eyewitness Victor Peralta.
Within seconds, the super in the next building grabbed a ladder. Good Samaritans then hauled it up the fire escape while the apartment spewed out smoke and flames like an angry dragon. They tried to bridge a walkway from the fire escape to the apartment, except it wasn't steady, so they put the ladder into the 4th floor window and very carefully got the worker down, across and onto the fire escape.
Frank Gonzalez helped anchor the ladder, holding on for another man's dear life.
"They made their way across, as soon as close enough to grab, he tackled them onto the fire escape," says Gonzalez.
The apartment belongs to Jose Becquer. Becquer thought he was coming home to freshly polished floors instead of a charred ruin.
"People make a living, what can I do?" Becquer said.
Becquer does not blame the worker, he is just glad that no one died. This, as heroes were born in Washington Heights Monday.