When Mary Evans heard an explosion come from the house next door, she headed straight for the flames. Her niece’s four children were trapped inside the home -- ages 2, 3, 5, and 7.
“I had to do it, and I’d do it again, not only for them but for anyone else,” the Hickory, Miss., native told Nurseweek.com about the incident that happened in the early morning in January 2004.
Evans, now a retired nurse, had her son spray her with hose water before entering the burning home, she told the news outlet. She was still in her pajamas.
“I couldn’t stay in long because I could feel my skin burning and couldn’t see through the black smoke,” she describes. Evans reentered the house multiple times, soaking herself in water each time. She heard the children screaming but couldn’t see them, she told the Franklin County Times.
Evans first found Katie, 7, who is legally blind, and carried her out a window. She then went back inside and saved two other children from the flames. Five-year-old Jamien did not survive, according to the Times.
"They said he wouldn't get under the bed because he was scared of the dust bunnies," Evans told the Times, describing why she didn't find the boy with his brother and sisters.
Since the harrowing incident, Evans was honored with the American Red Cross and Nursing Spectrum Nurse Hero Award in 2004.
Yet Evans refuses to see her actions as heroic, but she does hope to inspire others.
“If you’re a true nurse, you want to save lives, and you just help people. I’m not a hero, just human,” she told Nurseweek.com, “If I help one person, maybe they’ll help somebody else.”