An Army National Guard soldier, home for the holidays after boot camp, was remembered Saturday as a hero who died while rescuing neighbors in the deadly Bronx apartment building fire.
Emmanuel Mensah, 26, who immigrated from Ghana several years ago, had been training in Georgia, his family said.
The family said Mensah lived with a roommate in the five-story building, set ablaze by a 3-year-old boy playing with a gas stove.
As smoke and flames engulfed the building near the Bronx Zoo, Mensah bravely helped evacuate neighboring units, relatives and the mayor’s office said.
Ultimately, he couldn’t save himself. He became one of 12 to die in the city’s deadliest fire in more than 25 years.
“Private Emmanuel Mensah was a first-generation immigrant, a soldier, and a New Yorker. He gave his life rescuing his neighbors in the Bronx fire,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet Saturday afternoon. “His heroism exemplifies the best of our city. Rest in peace.”
Mensah’s family, who lives two buildings away, said he rescued nearly a half-dozen people and died while returning to save more.
Vanessa Mensah, 20, said her older brother’s heroism hasn’t lessened the family’s misery.
“We feel like, ‘Why can’t you just come out the building and save your own life? Why do you have to save everybody?’” she said.
The drugstore cashier said she was at work when she heard about the fire in their Belmont neighborhood.
Inside the family’s apartment Saturday afternoon, she said her father was grieving and fielding condolences, and her aunt was on the phone doing the same nearby.
Vanessa Mensah said her father and the military were making funeral arrangements.
“We feel so sad right now because I lost my brother, so it hurts,” she said.
Mensah lamented that she and her brother hadn’t been speaking lately, following a squabble over something relatively minor — a TV set. That was the last time they were together, much to her regret now.
“I never set my eyes on him again,” she said.