A mother and her two kids jumped out of the second floor of a burning apartment building into the waiting arms of a Petersburg police officer below.
Officer Wendell James was the first person at the scene of 19 Woodmere Drive, arriving just before 1:00 a.m. Tuesday. James calmed April Genao into tossing her two children into his arms, and then coaxed the military wife into taking a leap of faith of her own.
Genao lights a candle every night for her husband, a Fort Lee soldier now stationed at the Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany. When she left the candle to check on her two-year-old daughter, the two fell asleep and the candle started a fire in the living room.
"There was black smoke everywhere and there was no way out," Genao said. "The only way was to break a window, and my five-year-old son and I started yelling for help."
Officer James told Genao to trust him and throw her children, Angel and Sophia, from the window.
"I knew I had to do it. So, I just threw my daughter out and he caught her," Genao said. "Then I was going to throw my son out, but [my son] just pushed me out of the way and jumped himself."
With both of her children safe, it was time for Genao's trust fall.
"I started freaking out," she said. "They coaxed me out and I jumped."
Genao sprained her ankle, and walked to Wednesday's news conference on crutches. Officer James said the two children were easy to catch, and easy to calm down.
"They were actually pretty calm," James said. "It was mamma we were working on calming down."
Genao said the jump may not seem high for some people, but the leap of faith changed her life.
"I grew up where, you don't like the police and you're intimidated by them. But they were awesome and they were right there."
Fire marshals declared the apartment a total loss. Both the Red Cross and Fort Lee are helping the Genao family to find a new place to live.
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