A true American hero who lost his life saving his neighbors was immortalized with a street co-naming in his honor.
U.S. Army Private First Class Emmanuel Mensah, who is credited with running back into a burning apartment building on Prospect Avenue four times to save neighbors before perishing in the 2017 fire, was honored on Friday, June 14.
The co-naming occurred at the corner of Prospect Avenue and East 187th Street in Fordham, just steps from the scene of heroism, with Mensah’s family and friends, including his dad Kwabena Mensah.
They assembled to remember the young man’s life and receive the honorary street sign proclaiming that part of Prospect Avenue ‘Emmanuel Mensah Way’.
Mensah had arrived in America from Ghana just five years before the fire, and was visiting home for the first time attending boot camp. He was in the U.S. Army National Guard.
Councilman Ritchie Torres, who carried the street sign legislation through the NYC City Council, said that Mensah was Belmont’s bravest and that he thought that the street named in his honor was the most appropriate co-naming he’s ever done.
“He is a national hero and it is not often that we have an occasion to rename a street after a genuine American hero who went knowingly into a burning building to sacrifice his own life to save others,” said Torres. “Even though he didn’t die on the battlefield, he had a soldier’s bravery.”
The councilman said that Mensah’s life is a testament to the virtue of immigration.
Mensah saved the lives of four people before the fire claimed his own.
Mensah’s uncle Trum Breda said that the family is greatly honored by the street naming.
“What the city has done for our son is incredible,” said Breda, adding “Though we feel the loss this alone has assured us that if you lay down your life for a good cause, you will be rewarded.”
The fire was the city’s deadliest in the city in a quarter century.
The December 28, 2017 blaze at 2363 Prospect Avenue claimed 13 lives.
The fire is believed to have stemmed from a young child turning on a stove.
This led to legislation that mandated distribution of safety knobs that are more difficult for youngsters to activate, said the councilman.
Present at the event were some survivors of the fire, including survivor Christine Batiz, who lost both her mother, Maria Batiz and her daughter Amora Vidal in the blaze.
Batiz said that the scene overwhelmed her, recalling a final phone conversation she had with her mom before fire engulfed the building.
She said that Mensah had a chance at life and used it to save others.
Cynthia Bryant was more fortunate, losing her beloved pet turtle in the fire, but nevertheless making it out alive.
She recalls running downstairs in flip-flops on one of the coldest days of the year and being assisted by a firefighter.
She lived in the building for 33 years and many of the people who were her neighbors were like family, said Bryant.