One day, Steve and his dog were walking near the local prep school when they saw a huge commotion. It was a massive fire. Some kids and teachers had evacuated, but Steve didn’t see a particular child in the crowd, so he moved closer to the burning building. That’s when he heard the screams and rushed inside, shocking the parents who used to hate him.
Steve and his dog, Rocky, lived under the Third Avenue Bridge in New York City near a local prep school called The King’s Academy. Sometimes, he walked through that area, and a few parents gave him their spare cash.
Generally, he avoided that area because most people looked at him in disdain. The kids at the school all came from wealthy families, save for a few who were scholarship kids, and most of them were taught not to talk to strangers like him.
Steve fell in with the wrong crowd during his high school days, and it all went downhill from there. It had been decades since he had a real place to call home.
Steve rushed to the school when he saw that it was on fire. | Source: Shutterstock
But he lived alright and wasn’t alone, thanks to Rocky. The only downside about his pet was that most shelters rejected the presence of a dog, and the New York City winters were bitter. But Steve thought they were doing fine.
One day, he was sitting on a bench on Each One Teach One playground when a boy in a school uniform approached them. The boy said his name was Brian Davies, and he asked to play with Rocky. Steve gladly agreed and let the boy use one of Rocky’s toys that someone had donated. They started playing fetch while Steve watched.
Since that day, the boy kept dropping in on Steve and Rocky after school. He even brought food for them. However, Steve was concerned that Brian’s parents wouldn’t want him socializing with them, so he asked the boy why he wasn’t back home hanging out with his friends.
“I don’t have any friends, mister. Everyone bullies me at school, and no one ever invites me to hang out,” Brian replied.
“You’re 12 or 13, right?”
Brian told Steve that everyone bullied him. | Source: Pexels
“Well, why don’t your parents sign you up for soccer or something? You can always make friends that way,” Steve suggested.
“I don’t like that stuff. I like watching anime and reading books. Everyone bullies me for that, especially Curtis. He’s the worst bully of all,” Brian said, dejected.
Steve tried to give him some advice about bullies, but there was not much he could say. School was terrible for him, and that’s why he ended up with the wrong crowd. But he told Brian to keep going because everything would be better for him after he graduated. The boy grinned a bit and continued playing with Rocky.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Fisher spotted them at the park while driving down the street. She was a PTA mom and the nosiest woman you could ever meet. The next day, Brian’s parents received a call from the school, informing them that Mrs. Fisher had seen him playing with a homeless man, and he could be dangerous.
Mrs. Fisher alerted the school about a student playing with an older man. | Source: Pexels
Mrs. Fisher also called the police on Steve. But they only warned him not to approach any of the kids at school. Steve agreed immediately. “The boy was just playing with my dog right here on this park,” the homeless man explained.
“Ok, sir. But the women that run that school are a huge pain, and they have powerful husbands. Let’s just avoid any trouble from now on, ok?” a kind policewoman told him. Steve appreciated her words. They knew he was not at fault at all but wanted to avoid trouble with busybody mothers at the school.
So from then on, Steve went to another playground on the other side of Third Avenue Bridge, where Brian couldn’t find him.
He hadn’t seen the boy in months and almost forgot the incident when he spotted a commotion down the street. There were a bunch of people gathered in front of The King’s Academy and Steve noticed a lot of smoke coming from several of its windows. It seemed like they had evacuated all the kids, and he could hear fire truck sirens in the background.
The kids were trapped inside a classroom because a beam fell from the ceiling. | Source: Pexels
For a moment Steve worried about Brian. He was nowhere to be seen in the crowd. He wondered if he had safely exited the building. He decided to slip beyond the gate to check things out. As he neared one of the buildings, he heard cries for help coming from the second story.
Quickly, Steve covered his hand with part of his jacket sleeve and broke one of the windows on the first floor. He commanded Rocky to stay outside and jumped in. It was a random classroom, and it was full of smoke already. Steve had to be quick, so he rushed to the hallway and saw the stairs leading to the second floor. However, smoke had saturated the entire second floor too.
The cries for help were still loud, and the only solution Steve could think of in that second was to remove his jacket and use it to cover his face as he trekked through the second-floor hallway towards the cries.
“We’re here! HELP US!” Steve recognized Brian’s voice. He removed his jacket a bit to see better and looked inside the last classroom in the hallway. Fortunately, some of the smoke was exiting through the windows, so Steve could see inside. They were in there. Then he saw why they had not been able to evacuate the building yet. A ceiling beam had fallen inside the classroom, and there was a kid trapped beneath it.
Two fighters entered, following Rocky. | Source: Pexels
Some of the desks near the door had caught fire too, but Steve burst into the room and reached Brian, who recognized him. “Mister! You’re here! This is Curtis! I couldn’t leave him! I tried to get him out, but this thing is too heavy!” the boy rushed his words and gestured with his hands.
“Brian, use your shirt to cover your mouth and nose. You too, kid! You can’t breathe this air for too long. Let’s get you out there now!” Steve said, watching as the middle-schoolers followed his instructions and covered their faces with their shirts. Steve also did the same, as he discarded his jacket to help the boy out. Brian was right. The beam was pretty heavy.
But after a massive pull, Curtis was able to squeeze out from beneath the beam. “Thank you, sir! But I think my leg is broken. How can we get out?”
“I’ll carry you. Let’s go!”
Just then, Steve heard Rocky barking. The dog rushed into the room with two firefighters in tow, using their equipment to clear a path through the fire so they could enter. “Is everyone alright? Let’s get you out of here quickly!” one of them urged.
The kids were rushed to the paramedics.| Source: Pexels
Upon exiting the building, the kids were taken directly to an ambulance and the firefighters insisted that Steve have himself checked too. “No, let the doctors focus on the kids,” the homeless man said, breathing heavily.
Then a woman rushed to him. “Sir! You saved our kids! Thank you! Thank you so much!” she exclaimed and hugged the man.
“Well, it wasn’t just me. My dog and these amazing firefighters did most of the work,” Steve responded, laughing awkwardly as other people approached them.
“No, this man braved all that smoke to save these kids. It was dangerous, and we don’t recommend doing it again. But you were a hero today, and of course, your dog led us right to you!” another firefighter explained. “But you have to get checked out. Come on! Let’s talk to the paramedics.”
Steve followed after him reluctantly and saw that Brian and Curtis were both breathing from an oxygen tank. The paramedics commanded him to do the same and brought another tank after checking his vitals. The three of them sat together while the commotion was still going on. But the firefighters had everything under control by then.
They checked Steve’s vitals, then he sat down to talk to the kids. | Source: Pexels
“So, kid. What happened back there? Why did you get trapped in that classroom when everyone else evacuated?” Steve asked, though he already had a hunch about what happened.
Curtis looked at his feet, and Brian stared at him intently. “He was… we were alone in the classroom and didn’t bother when the alarm sounded. The school has fire drills all the time. We thought it was fake,” Brian began, wetting his lips nervously as he spoke. “It wasn’t, but then, the flames were scary. And then… the beam fell, and Curtis got trapped. I couldn’t leave him.”
“I see…” Steve hummed.
“That’s not what happened,” Curtis spoke up, still not looking away from the ground. “I was bullying Brian when the alarms went off, and I wouldn’t let him out, and then the beam fell on me. He tried to get me out for some time. I can’t believe you did that for me. I’m sorry.”
“It’s ok,” Brian said and smiled at Curtis when the boy finally raised his eyes. Steve grinned at both kids. That’s the thing with boys. They could suddenly bond over something and forget all the reasons why they hated each other before.
Steve formed a close bond with Brian’s family, and the boy played fetch with Rocky all the time. | Source: Pexels
Once they were done with the oxygen tanks, the boys’ mothers came to thank him once again and offered him assistance, money, and more. Steve didn’t need anything, except maybe some food for him and Rocky.
But Brian’s mother went beyond that. Mrs. Davies organized a GoFundMe for Steve, and they were able to buy him a small condo on the other side of Third Avenue Bridge. They arranged for him to work as a stock clerk at a local supermarket too.
Steve tried to reject their generosity, but Brian’s mother wouldn’t hear of it. She also invited him often to their house, especially on the holidays.
Brian got to play with Rocky often and told him school stories. Curtis had become a really good friend to him. The other kids were too afraid to continue their bullying now.
Steve smiled at the boy as he threw the ball for Rocky to fetch. Things always work out in the end.
What can we learn from this story?
- Not all bullies are inherently evil, and they can change. Curtis learned from his errors after what Brian did for him, and they became close friends.
- A stranger can become a hero in a second. The man everyone hated initially ended up saving two kids heroically.
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