A Lawrence police officer's heroic action saved the lives of two people from a fire at a housing authority apartment building.
Police Officer John Tully three times went into the smoke-filled apartment building and dragged two men, one of them 78 years old, to safety early Tuesday morning.
As reporter Jim Patten described the incident, Tully arrived at the building at 45 Auburn St. at 12:19 a.m. for a reported fire. Tully found several occupants in the courtyard and could see fire through the window of a second-floor apartment.
After Tully called for backup, a man identified as Ivan Cruz, 47, told him most of the residents had evacuated, but that someone was still inside.
Tully entered the building and went up to the second-floor landing where he encountered heavy smoke and saw a man later identified as Sam Khoury, 78, lying on the floor at the far end of the hallway.
The smoke forced Tully to retreat to the first floor to catch his breath. He then returned to the second floor where he grabbed Khoury and began pulling him to the stairway.
Police said Tully had to go to the first floor again for air and then made his way up to the second floor a third time. This time, Cruz went with him, and both men pulled Khoury to the top of the stairwell.
At this time Cruz was overcome by smoke and Tully grabbed Cruz and Khoury and dragged them both down the stairs.
Cruz and Khoury both were treated at Lawrence General Hospital for smoke inhalation. Khoury was later airlifted to a Boston hospital for further treatment.
After later feeling sick from the smoke, Tully drove himself to the hospital, where he was treated for smoke inhalation.
Police Chief John Romero praised Tully for taking action "at great personal risk to his own safety."
"I am not surprised. John is that type of individual," Romero told Patten.
Heroism consists of recognizing what must be done, and then being willing to do it, even at great risk to one's own safety.
Officer Tully knew he had to get Khoury out of the smoke-filled stairwell. And he did it — despite being driven back several times for lack of fresh air.
Thanks, too, go to Cruz, who was willing to help a police officer in need.
Tully's bravery is a credit to the Lawrence Police Department. Congratulations to him on a job well done.