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Published On: Tue, Oct 22nd, 2013

Mark Atkinson, former Marine, saves family from fire ‘My Marine Corps training kicked in’

The man in Queens who caught four children who were forced to leap from a second-floor window as a house fire consumed the home recounts the ordeal and his motivations.

“My Marine Corps training kicked in and I just wanted to save the family,” said Mark Atkinson, age 45, in an interview with the NY Daily News.

“I started to call 911, until I heard, ‘Help me! Help me!’ I saw the wife and husband in the window. . . . Everything was chaotic,” he recalled. “That’s when I started catching all the kids.”

Black smoke filled the first floor and Atkinson worked with the parents, who then tossed the children out the window and into the arms of the former Marine.

“I said, ‘Okay, give me the children first — throw them to me,’ ” Atkinson remembered. “There was an older boy who was crying hysterically,” he said. “The younger kids were so small they didn’t understand it.”

The story doesn’t end here as Atkinson heard more calls for help from the neighbor who was struggling to free the grandfather who was trapped in a basement.

“He was trapped in the bathroom and the smoke was coming out of the house billowing around him,” said Horace Palmer. “He only had enough space just to put his head through the hole. So he was asking, ‘Please help me. Break the window!’ ”

Atkinson, who came to the U.S. from Jamaica and became a citizen in the 1980s, said he doesn’t feel like a hero.

“They thanked me very much, but I don’t want any accolades,” he said.

“That’s how we are in the Marines, and that’s how I live.”

Check out the full coverage here

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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