The mayor of the struggling New Jersey city of Newark said on Friday he was no super hero, only a good neighbor when he broke free from his security detail in a burning house and rescued a woman.
Cory Booker arrived at his Newark home on Thursday night to find his next-door neighbor's house ablaze. His neighbor said her middle-aged daughter was trapped upstairs and begged for help.
He and his bodyguard, Police Detective Alex Rodriguez, tread up the stairs into the home's kitchen, and when the mayor tried to go deeper, the bodyguard grabbed him by the belt to prevent him, Booker 42, recalled at a news conference outside the home on Friday.
The mayor said he "whipped around and we had some words ... I'm his commanding officer."
The mayor broke free and moved further into the home to search for the woman, who is "like a big sister to me" and has been his neighbor for the past six years.
"I felt terror. I couldn't breathe. I finally heard her and found her," Booker recalled.
He hoisted her over his shoulder and carried her to safety. Both were rushed to the hospital for treatment, and the woman remained hospitalized in stable condition on Friday, a spokeswoman for the mayor said.
"It went from bad to worse. I was terrified in that blackened sooted room without an exit," said Booker, whose clothes caught fire.
His security detail rescued three other people in the home.
At the morning news conference, Booker shrugged off a reporter's question about being a super hero.
"I think that's way over the top. I'm a neighbor who did what most neighbors would do, jump into action to help a friend," he said.
Booker has become something of a celebrity since the movie "Brick City" about Newark became a series on the Sundance Channel.