Each year, Georgia schools teach fire safety. Those classes came in handy for one Atlanta student last summer. LyNila Cain, a fifth grader at Slater Elementary School, was recognized Wednesday for saving her family from a house fire.
In the middle of math class, the door swung open, and media, family, and school officials all swooped in. Walmart presented LyNila with a bookbag full of supplies and a $100 gift card.
“We’re here to celebrate [LyNila] as an everyday hero,” said Slater Principal Lenise Bostic.
LyNila’s classmates urged her to make a speech. But the reluctant heroine declined.
One night last August, a grease fire started in the family’s kitchen. LyNila said she acted on instinct.
"I woke up and the house was on fire, and I ran out the door, and I went next door,” she said. “They didn’t answer quick. So, I ran back in and I got my brother.”
LyNila’s 4-year-old brother has asthma, and the smoke was making him cough. When she returned with him to the neighbor’s house, they answered the door, and she called 911. One of her neighbors retrieved her other brother, still in the house.
“She’s mature for her age anyway, but to take the actions that she did, you wouldn’t expect that from a nine-year-old,” said LyNila’s mother, Shonkera Lewis, who was at work when the fire broke out.
LyNila’s math teacher, Victoria Robinson, said her determination carries over into class.
“She’s a student that rigor is nothing but perseverance to her. It doesn’t matter how hard it is, it matters how hard she works, and she works continuously,” Robinson said.
When recalling the dramatic rescue, LyNila said she remembered what she learned in first grade.
“They told us…stop, drop, and roll,” she said.
A note of disclosure: WABE's broadcast license is held by the Atlanta Board of Education.