Poisoned household saved by boy

November 17, 1993|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Every morning at 6, Anthony Mojica's mother drops him off on West Cortez St. on her way to work. Anthony watches TV and waits for a couple of hours under the watchful eye of Ruth Munoz before heading off to make the 8:30 a.m. bell at Lafayette Language Academy, where he is a fifth-grader.

But yesterday, it was Anthony, 10, who had the watchful eye.

The Humboldt Park home he walked into had been poisoned by carbon monoxide from a faulty space heater, and it wasn't long after he arrived that the family there became ill -- collapsing on the floor, vomiting and drifting into unconsciousness.

"I was a little bit scared," says Anthony, recalling the events that led to a busy day as a media star and a school celebrity. "They were vomiting on the floor and couldn't get up."

Anthony tried to wake one of the children but realized he needed to go for help.

"I woke Wilfredo up, and he started vomiting and fell on the floor, and that's when I ran for help," Anthony says.

First, he ran to a neighbor's house, but he found no one home. Then he ran to a friend's house.

"I told them to call 911," Anthony says.

It was a simple act, but a heroic one nonetheless.

"There's no doubt this kid saved their lives," says 6th Battalion Fire Chief Thomas Barrett. "We found people on couches and on the floor, people staggering out of the building. Some were dazed."

Five adults and seven children were taken to hospitals and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning and released.

After the Chicago Fire Department took over, Anthony went about his day. But word of his feat quickly spread; TV cameras bustled through the hallways of Lafayette, and classmates crowded around to watch Anthony being interviewed.

Principal Efrain Orduz says a school assembly was planned today to honor Anthony and present this year's safety lesson.

"We're a selfish society, just 'me' and 'me.' We don't think of our fellow brothers and sisters. That's what he did. He thought, 'Well, these people need help, and I'm going to do it,' " Mr. Orduz says. "Anthony has really lifted our spirits."

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