The boys in this story have been recognized as part of the Greatest Person of the Day feature on Huffington Post, a feature that spotlights ordinary and extraordinary people in Patch communities whose acts of courage, determination, volunteerism and compassion have made a difference in their towns. These are people who inspire and energize others to strengthen their communities and improve lives.
It was fairly typical for an after-school Friday at the Dawson house. Typical meaning the house on Mulberry Court was packed with teenagers, friends of the Dawson boys--Todd, 18; Dustin, 17; and Mike, 15, all students.
"They hang here," said Julie Dawson, mother of eight. "I let them come to my house because I know what they're doing, I know that they're safe, I know it's a safe place to hang. ... It was just a normal day."
But normal didn't last long. . The Dawson teens and the others--which included younger brother Nick, 12, who's also a member of Boy Scouts Troop 49 in New Lenox; Mark Fitzgerald, 16, of Frankfort; James Ott, 18, of Mokena; and Karam Hamoud, 16, of Mokena--alerted the LeGrands and even tried to put out the flames by throwing snow on them.
”Our adrenaline was just up. Nothing was going to stop us."
"We were just sitting in my garage, and my mom, she saw a fire," Todd said. "But we all thought it was like a bonfire. I think Karam ran out and said it was coming from the house. Then Dustin and Mark ran over there."
"Me and Dustin saw what it was, so we bolted over there, and he just started putting out the fire," Mark added. "And then me and Nick ... went to the front door."
The two boys immediately rang the doorbell. When no one answered, they opened the door, walked in and started yelling for everyone to get out, Mark said. As his wife, Rene, got out of the house with the dog, Randy LeGrand raced to the chimney to help the others fight the fire. By that time, James, Karam and Julie were pitching in.
Did it occur to the friends that there might be some danger involved trying to fight a house fire with clumps of snow? Not really. The only thought, they said, was to try to put that blaze out.
"Our adrenaline was just up. Nothing was going to stop us," Todd said. "At first, (the fire) was coming out of the bottom and then it was coming out of the top (of the chimney). We were trying to put the bottom out, so it wouldn't spread, but then it started to get to the roof and the gutter."
The eventually arrived to extinguish the blaze, assisted by departments from Mokena, Manhattan, New Lenox and Tinley Park. The fire did extensive damage to the second story of the home, destroying the roof, Randy LeGrand said at the scene, adding that two rooms upstairs were torn apart and had water damage. No one, however, was injured.
"The main thing is that they're safe," Julie said. "Their house can be repaired and fixed, but you can't bring a human life back."
And the LeGrands thank the boys for helping to make sure no one was hurt. At the scene, Randy called them heroes, and .
"Thanks to the Dawsons, their friends and all our neighbors who were most helpful and gracious," she wrote. "You truly saved our lives. We will forever be indebted to you."
The praise hasn't stopped with the LeGrands. Neighbors have come over to the Dawsons's house to congratulate the boys. Teachers and staffers at Lincoln-Way East and , where Nick attends, applauded the friends for their courageous actions. Their parents, too, are proud of what they did, even if Mom and Dad didn't quite think it was real at first.
"(My parents) didn't believe me because of the fact that I told them over the phone," Karam said. "When I went home, I saw that the article was online, and I showed them that, and they all started getting happy and stuff."
Ask this group of friends, however, if they think of themselves as heroes, and they dismiss the idea that they've done anything special. This is how they were raised, they say. It's
"We're not heroes," Mark said. "We did whatever any other neighbors would do."