Tina LaTorella, a nurse at Winchester Hospital in Winchester, Mass., was walking her eight-year-old daughter to school when she noticed the smell of burning wood and the crackling sound of a fire. She followed the source of the noise to find one of the houses in her neighborhood in flames. The nurse immediately stepped into action.
LaTorella explained that she handed her cell phone to her daughter and told her to call for help while she raced towards the burning three-story structure to help anyone who may have been trapped inside.
“I ran to the house, banging on doors and screaming ‘Fire!’ and ‘Call 911!’ as loud as I could,” said LaTorella. “I didn’t hesitate at all. I was definitely afraid. But I knew I had to do what I had to do.”
She waved down a passing truck driver, who then joined in the search. LaTorella pounded on the front door to see if anyone was inside. A few minutes passed before a woman, her three children, and their German shepherd came staggering out of the house. They helped the family to a safe area across the street to assess their injuries and state of mind, but they were still in shock.
“I was just comforting them,” LaTorella said. “They were screaming, crying, shaking. I just kept telling them, ‘You guys are safe. You’re OK.’”
LaTorella stayed with the family until the first responders arrived while they watched their home burn. She even exchanged numbers with the woman and offered her a place to stay. It was a hectic morning, but LaTorella still managed to work through her shift at the hospital.
The 45-year-old was recently honored by her colleagues for her bravery and quick thinking in an emergency.
“Everybody said that was really heroic. I don’t consider it heroic at all. I think anybody — you or me or anybody — would have done the same thing,” LaTorella said with humility. “Of course, you’re concerned. You have family and you’re banging on doors on a house that’s on fire, but I knew there was a family there, so my instinct just told me that they had to get out of the house.”
But her coworkers were amazed by her tenacity and selfless spirit, so Karen Keaney, the chief nursing officer, and Al Campbell, the hospital’s president, brought LaTorella to the lobby where they presented her with a bouquet of flowers as the other nurses broke out in applause.
“Tina has been with Winchester Hospital for 12 years and we are all very proud and humbled by her actions,” Keaney said of LaTorella. “Her nursing astuteness, as well as her sensitivity to humanity, prompted her to go above and beyond to rescue this family.”
The family whose home was destroyed is still struggling to get back on their feet. They lost all their possessions in the fire and are looking for permanent housing. A GoFundMe had been set up to help them pay for expenses.
“My daughter, for the first time, I think she knows why I’m a nurse,” LaTorella said. “I want to help people… I’m just happy the family is safe.” <sic>