2 who rescued Baltimore teen-ager from fire receive national hero award

October 02, 1998|By Daniel Valentine | Daniel Valentine,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Two strangers who risked their lives by crawling into a burning Woodlawn house to rescue a teen-ager have been named winners of the national Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awards.

One of the winners, Elena Keller of Silver Spring, said fright compelled her to act Aug. 22, 1997.

"I wasn't brave. I was afraid," said Keller, 50. "I was afraid of what would happen to me, of how I would be able to live with myself if I didn't do anything."

Keller, a program director for Sylvan Learning Center in Woodlawn, noticed the fire across the street on Bexhill Road.

The other hero, Lawrence Gary, 48, a minister for Christian Life Fellowship in Catonsville, was helping a friend paint a house in the neighborhood when he went to rescue Shonda Green, 17, of Baltimore, who was visiting the house.

After residents said someone was trapped inside, Keller crawled through the back door, but heavy smoke drove her back. Then Gary crawled in, found Green unconscious and dragged her outside, Keller said.

Both rescuers were treated for smoke inhalation. Green died three weeks later from burns and smoke inhalation.

Gary and Keller were among 18 people named as heroes last week by the commission, which industrialist Andrew Carnegie established in 1904 to honor people who risk their lives saving others. They will receive $3,000 and a bronze medal.

Gary could not be reached for comment. Keller, who has kept in touch with Green's family, said Sylvan Learning Center established a scholarship in the girl's name.

Shonda's mother, Rachelle Green, said, "I'm just grateful that someone cared enough to risk their life for her. We had three weeks [with Shonda, after the fire], and I thank God for that."

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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