A Maryland brother and sister were reunited Tuesday with a firefighter who rescued them from a burning home over 50 years ago.
"I started to shake his hand, but I knew that wasn't enough so I threw my arms around him and gave him a hug and my sister basically did the same thing," Michael Hart of Rockville told ABC News today. "It was absolutely amazing. He was exactly how I thought he would be, gracious and kind and so humble."
In 1959, Michael Hart, now 61, was found unconscious in a second-floor room at the age of 3 by firefighter Stu Newman of the Chillum-Adelphi Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland. He was saved along with his sister, Linda Hart, who was 2 years old at the time.
Hart's mother, Mary Waits Hart, who died in 1984, had also been in the home but escaped the blaze without injuries, he said.
"It was a pretty big deal when it happened," Hart said. "When they brought me out draped over the firefighter's arms, [my mother] was sure I was dead. I don't have any strong memories of the fire itself. I do remember being in the hospital. [Mom] said that I was pretty affected by it. It was a moment in our family's history that could've turned out so much more tragically."Nurse Reunites With Baby Named Jet She Helped Deliver MidflightMom of Twin Separated at Birth Reacts to Emotional 'GMA' Reunion: 'It Didn't Feel Real'Siblings Abandoned as Babies Find Each Other 50 Years Later
Growing up, Hart said the house fire story was retold among his family members.
Hart was told investigators speculated that the fire started from the sun magnifying through glass doors, setting the coat closet on fire. Other than this information, Hart never knew any specific details about the fire, he said.
But on Dec. 26, 2016, a cousin brought an old box of photos and mementos she kept from Hart's late mother. Inside was an old newspaper clipping reporting on the fire incident and named Stu Newman as one of the firefighters who answered the call that day in August 1959.
"I knew I owed my life to a firefighter, but I never thought I'd know his name," Hart said. "It wasn't until I saw his name that it inspired me to find out more."
Intrigued, Hart reached out to his friend, Jake Hartman, an EMS with Prince George's County, who posted firefighter Newman's name onto Facebook.
Eventually, word got to the Chillum-Adelphi Fire Department where Newman served for 34 years. And on Jan. 31, he was finally reunited with the Hart siblings face-to-face in the engine room.
“It’s not only that our lives were saved," Linda Hart told ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington, D.C., during Tuesday's reunion. "It’s that the rest of our family was allowed to be much more whole than we could have imagined it could have been.”
Newman, now 84 and retired, told ABC News that he was touched by the meeting.
"Extraordinary -- I couldn't think of any other word that would identify that," said Newman of Bowie, Maryland. "Of course, there were all these thank yous. His sister is a pastor in Washington state and she said they couldn't have done these things if it hadn't been for me."
Newman hopes to keep in touch with the Hart family and get together again, he said.
- Michael Hart
- Linda Hart