Army Sgt. Antonio Adams said he was just following his instincts when he helped several of his neighbors out of a burning building at Village East Apartments.
Adams, an Army recruiter in Middletown, was at home on July 28 when a neighbor banged on his door and told him something was burning.
A native of Eden, N.C., and the father of three children, Adams went out onto his balcony and saw black smoke coming out of his apartment building. After putting his shoes on, he went to help out as police and fire units hadn’t arrived yet.
He saw a man re-enter the building to go to his second floor apartment to retrieve his cat. However, the smoke had filled the stairwell and the man could not get out of the building. The man went on the second floor balcony with his cat, and Adams climbed up the balcony and helped the man and his cat safely escape.
Adams then climbed up to the third-floor balcony to make sure no one was there. No one was in the apartment, but he did see a dog he was unable to get to because the home’s sliding door was locked. He climbed down and let people know the dog was still there when the fire department arrived.
He then went to the rear of the building and helped an elderly couple out of their burning apartment unit. Adams said they were panicked and could not open the sliding door, so he opened that door and led the couple to safety.
“I can’t call it selfless. To me, it’s just reaction,” Adams said. “Today, people would rather record (on their phones) rather than react and help someone because they’re worried about getting likes on Facebook or Instagram. To me there’s a time and a place for that. Record when there are no lives at stake.”
Adams received eight stitches for cuts on his hand as a result of climbing up the balconies.
For his efforts, he is being recommended for a Soldier’s Medal, the highest honor a soldier can receive for an act of valor in a non-combat situation, said Sgt. Joshua Blair of the Army’s Columbus Recruiting Battalion.
In addition, the Middletown Division of Police will be presenting an award to Adams for his actions at the fire scene, according to Middletown Police Maj. David Birk.
A reluctant hero, Adams said he wouldn’t do anything differently if he had to do it over again.
“The Army taught me not to fold under pressure,” he said. “It’s just who I am. As a person, how can I live in good conscience if I didn’t try to do something?”