De'Errica Hines, realizing that the lives of her relatives were at stake, relied on faith – as well as a cellphone and a shirt – when she ran back inside a burning apartment complex in Dayton, Ohio, last Thursday night.
The 15-year-old Summit Academy Transitional High School student put the cellphone to work as a flashlight and used the shirt as a smoke shield to rescue her 1-year-old sister and cousins. Dayton fire investigators concluded the fire was an accident. The cause was electrical, they said.
District Chief David Wright said the origin of the fire appears to have been in a first-floor apartment and that smoke detectors activated as they should have.
De'Errica had been charged with looking out for the little ones because Mom was at work.
De'Errica and her family lost their belongings in the fire, but she is gaining much more these days because of how she responded during – and after – an emergency.
"She's a real life hero. Usually, these stories ... you see they’re on movies," Summit Academy teacher Dustin Williams told WHIO's Lauren Clark on Monday.
De'Errica was in school the morning after the fire, seemingly not at all flustered and concerned only that she was wearing the shirt she had on the night of the fire. The clothing on her back was all that was left.
The straight-A student wanted desperately to go on the field trip, Williams said.
He said when he found out what she had experienced the night before, her attitude stunned him. De'Errica didn't seem to be dwelling on her immediate past. She was looking toward the future and what she could learn from the field trip.
This week, Summit Academy students are wearing ribbons as a sign that each of them has donated a dollar or more to support De’Errica and her family. Already, at least $150 has been collected.
>> HOW TO HELP: Here’s the link to the school Facebook page, where there is a list of what the family needs and information about a fundraiser.