SAPULPA, Okla. - Four Oklahoma teenagers are being hailed as heroes after they rushed to save a 90-year-old grandmother of 42 grandchildren from her burning home.
Three weeks ago, Catherine Ritchie, of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, had just finished brushing her teeth and hair when she turned around to see flames covering her bed. She tried putting the flames out by throwing blankets and pillows on the fire, but the heavy smoke and heat soon disoriented her.
Ritchie struggled to get out of her room, but somehow ended up walking into her closet a few times instead of into her hallway. She pushed an emergency call button she wore as a necklace, called 911 and continued trying to navigate her way out of the smoke-filled room.
While Ritchie was stuck, four teenage boys saw the smoke and flames coming from her home across the street. No one else was outside.
The boys rushed to help their neighbor, according to a thank you letter written by Ritchie's daughter Missy Ritchie Nicholas in a blog.
"(Four) kids who took immediate action to save an elderly woman who they couldn't guarantee was home and who (three) of them had never even met," Nicholas wrote.
Nicholas identified the boys as Nick Byrd, 14, Dylan Wick, 16, Seth Byrd, 16, and Wyatt Hall, 17.
The teens then split up: one attempted to break the glass on the front door, another called 911, one tried to kick in the back door and another went to a neighbor's home for an ax and help. Nick ended up kicking in the door and found Catherine in the hallway outside of her room.
Nick then picked Ritchie up and the other boys came in to help carry her out of her burning home. She was taken out into the street, where the group waited for firetrucks and ambulances.
At the end of her post, Nicholas thanked the boys for their courage, strength and willingness to save her mother's life.
"Thank you for not allowing this to be the tragic end to our mother's amazing life. Thank you for staying with her, hugging her, and helping her feel less alone until we could get to her," she wrote. "Thank you for being the kind young men who thought about another person above yourselves."
The post ended with a sincere thank you from Ritchie's family of 10 and "42 very grateful grandchildren."