NATALIA'S GUARDIAN ANGEL - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the June 2004 Juniper Berry Magazine

NATALIA'S GUARDIAN ANGEL

Hero sanitation worker James McFarlane

Would you dive through the window of a house on fire to rescue a howling dog? If you actually would dive through the window, would you continue the rescue if the dog was a 75-pound pit bull and, he kept backing away from you, making you go further into the burning house?

Our Hero Sanitation Worker James McFarlane did dive through the window and rescued more than the frightened 75-pound pit bull.

In February, in Maspeth, heading back to the garage in the late morning, James and his partner Steve spotted smoke just a few blocks away. They drove over to check things out and saw the house on fire. Steve phoned 911 while James heard the howling dog. Since this house was on his regular route, James already knew the dog, but believed the dog was home alone.

The front door was locked, so James smashed the window and dove through. The terrified dog (did I tell you he is a 75-pound pit bull?) became more frightened, and kept backing up and hiding under wherever he could. The house was full of smoke, and James could hear the flames crackling, snapping sound.

Now, into the smoky room comes Natalia Rivera, a 21-year old night student who had awoken after hearing the commotion. Natalia sees this stranger, James, her frightened pit bull (Pepsi), the smoke and flames.

Natalia figured things out quickly and put a leash on Pepsi. She was not leaving the house without Pepsi. They went to the front door to get out. The doorknob fell off!

James, Natalia and Pepsi went back to the broken window. Steve was waiting on the outside. James pushed Natalia to Steve. Then threw Pepsi to Natalia. Finally, James himself went through the window.

The Fire Department had also now arrived and took over. The second story was destroyed.

Later, Natalia said that without the help of James and Steve, she might not have gotten out of the house safely. She fondly refers to James as My Guardian Angel.

It turns out that my own home is on James' and Steve's route. Certainly that's a comfort. And I've gotten to know him over the years to greet and briefly chat. His wife is a teacher. My wife is a teacher. His supervisor's wife is a teacher. Natalia's parents are: Mom, Linda, a teacher and Dad, Gil, Assistant Principal. Natalia is studying nights for a career in education.

You should know that our Sanitation workers regularly go above and beyond. While trying to track down James for an interview, the Sanitation Department was unable to quickly identify James since so many workers so routinely are involved in assisting people on their route.

So, as you set your trash out for collection, remember this story of humble heroism. These Sanitation workers come through our neighborhoods just doing their job, but may one day be the ones who come to your assistance. Perhaps a friendly greeting?