Overbrook's Heroes . . .

   Pictured below are the three Overbrook HS football players who entered a burning
house near 56th and Girard to save an 87-year-old woman. L to R, they're Calem
Bridgette, Yusuf Bangura and Markeyse Carter.
   We salute these brave young men and thank them for their heroic act!
   Below the photo is the story that appeared in the 9/14/06 Daily News.
   Click here for photos of the guys' 9/19 visit to the NovaCare Complex, where
they had a surprise meeting with Donovan McNabb and received two tickets
apiece to the Monday night game vs. the Packers.
  Click here for a follow-up story on ESPN.com. 

Teen saves woman in fire


AS THEY WALKED south on 56th Street early Tuesday evening and neared Girard Avenue, Yusuf Bangura and a half-dozen Overbrook High football teammates thought someone was having "a serious barbecue."

But as the young men got closer, they realized...

The smoke was too thick. And too dark. And it certainly did not smell like food. Plus, it was pouring from the top of a house.

A few concerned people were gathered outside. No one was lending hands-on assistance, even though "Help me!" screams could be heard.

"I didn't really think," Bangura said. "I just reacted. There was no discussion among us. I just said, 'Yo, I'm goin' in.' "

Yusuf Bangura, 16, a sophomore, of course loves the idea of being a football hero, and that's what he was - thanks to a touchdown reception - back on Sept. 2, when Overbrook opened its season with a 12-10 win at Haverford School.

But this performance? It quite likely saved a life, and that's decidedly more heroic.

Bangura, followed by teammates Calem Bridgette and Markeyse Carter, charged into the smoke-filled house on W. Girard Avenue near 55th Street a shade before 7 p.m. The group had been walking home from practice.

After first smacking into the banister and slightly injuring his hip, Bangura dashed up the steps and, relying on shouts of panic to pinpoint a location, found an elderly woman in a back room.

Bangura scooped up the woman, later identified as Rosa Lewis, 87 - "Like you'd carry a baby, in front of my chest," he said - and scrambled back downstairs to safety.

The drama was not over.

Bangura has asthma and had endured a serious attack, thoroughly terrifying his teammates and coaches during one of Overbrook's late-summer workouts.

Now he was having another.

"He was talking OK at first," Bridgette said. "Then, he started coughing and having problems."

A woman came from across the street to give Bangura a bottle of water. A policeman soon arrived to provide further assistance.

"I had to calm down," Bangura said. "I was scared it was going to be like that day at practice again."

When an ambulance arrived, Bangura and Lewis spent time inside it together. He was taken to Children's Hospital, where he was held several hours for observation. Lewis, in a second ambulance, was treated at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and released.

Battalion Chief Willie Williams said the fire had been caused by faulty wiring. Bangura was back in school yesterday, and at practice.

As the workout began, assistant David Carter gathered the Panthers/Hilltoppers and explained what had happened. Most, of course, already knew.

"As a family, you need to give it up for your brothers!" Carter said.

There was wild applause.

"And I need to give you big ups, too!" Carter added. His clapping produced a second round of deep appreciation.

Earlier, coach Ken Sturm said of Bangura's heroics: "It's incredible, isn't it? This kid really deserves some good attention. True, there are some kids out here doing bad things. But there are a lot like Yusuf, and they need to be recognized."

Bridgette said he and Markeyse Carter followed Bangura into the house because they didn't want him to go it alone.

"We were so scared," Bridgette said. "You couldn't see anything. We only found the steps because my foot hit into them.

"I'm not sure how long it took. Maybe 10 to 15 seconds. Just when we were thinking we should run up there, too, we could hear Yusuf carrying the woman down the steps. He was so brave. You never think you'll know someone who does something that brave... I guess all three of us were brave."

Said Bangura: "My adrenaline was pumping. My heart was racing. I just kept thinking, 'I have to get this lady out.' I couldn't see. And the smoke was hurting my throat.

"She's probably somebody's mother. Somebody's grandmother. I know if it was my mom or grandmom, or even me, I'd want to get help, too."

Yesterday at 'Brook, best- known as Wilt Chamberlain's alma mater, news of Bangura's actions spread quickly.

"Some kids were calling me 'Superman,' " he said, sheepishly. "And a hero.

"Then, they made an announcement over the loudspeaker. I was in my African-American-history class. Some people didn't know it was me. When they saw others reacting, they were like, 'That Yusuf is YOU?!' "

He laughed. "That was a weird experience."

Lewis' neighbors surveyed the remains of her charred home last night and reflected on the heroic act that saved her life.

"It's great to see that there's still good people like that walking around," said neighbor Brett Reed.

Bangura, who lives on Alden Street, near 57th and Race streets, said his mother, Gwendolyn Lambert, was bursting with pride Tuesday night and yesterday.

"She said she was amazed that someone like me could do something like that," he said.

"She couldn't praise me enough."

She was not alone.

Staff writer David Gambacorta contributed to this report.