11-y-o to be honoured todayMonday, October 20, 2014
IT is a deed from which many would have shied away, but then only 10 years old, Toni-Ann Miller rushed into a burning building to save the lives of two children younger than herself.
Her own safety was the furthest thing from her mind when she quickly responded to the cries of a little boy who was trapped in a blazing house, thick billows of black smoke signalling that he was in serious danger.
A year later, she is being recognised for her bravery and is to be conferred with a Badge of Honour for Gallantry at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony on the lawns of King's House today.
Toni-Ann recalls that she was on her way home from school with friends in the Mount Hermon community of St Catherine, when they came upon the burning structure.
After rescuing the six-year-old boy, who came away unhurt, Toni-Ann, who knows the child asked him for his younger brother. Learning that he was still inside asleep, she re-entered the building to take the five-year-old boy to safety.
By this time, “half of the bed was burning”, Toni-Ann said.
The younger boy sustained minor burns to one of his arms.
Toni-Ann’s cousin Judeen Cunningham, who is also her caregiver, says she is convinced that “Toni-Ann doesn't realise (the significance of) what she did”.
Recalling the account of an eyewitness, Cunningham says the concrete around the front door of the house gave way just as Toni-Ann emerged with the second child.
She says she's very proud of her cousin, who has been living with her since November of last year, and expressed amazement at the child’s act of heroism, quipping: “(I) myself wouldn't do that”.
The question on many people’s lips: How did she do it?
“I saw my father doing it already,” the child says.
Confirming that he carried out a similar act of braveness about a year-and-a-half ago, Melvern Miller says he is humbled that his daughter has followed in his footsteps, and is happy she was not harmed.
Recalling his incident with laughter in his voice, Miller said when he realised a house in the yard in which he lived in Westmoreland was on fire, he raised an alarm and had to break down the door to rescue his brother and sister-in-law. He also dragged his nephew from the burning house.
The 39-year-old carpenter says he is still taken aback by the level of bravery displayed by his first child, noting that he is truly proud of her. He also has a three year old son.
Miller lives with his son’s mother, Kadian Johnson, who helped raise Toni-Ann from she was a year old until the age of nine. Her voice brimming with excitement, Johnson says she too is proud of her stepdaughter. When she heard about the incident, she said: “Tears came to my eyes…I'm glad nothing happened to her.”
Toni-Ann’s teacher at Mount Hermon Primary School, where she was a student at the time, boasts that Toni-Ann is “very bright”. “She studies a lot. She reads a lot of books. She hardly plays. I feel 100 per cent proud,” the teacher adds.
Toni-Ann is currently a Grade 6 student at Good Hope Primary School in Red Ground, St Catherine.
In recognition of her selfless act, Toni-Ann has previously been rewarded by the Jamaica Fire Brigade with a trophy, a bed, bedding and a basket of goodies including books and other school supplies.
She has also been the recipient of cash from a stranger overseas who learnt of the incident after Cunningham posted details of it online.
Toni-Ann is among 233 outstanding Jamaicans who will be recognised at the 2014 National Honours and Awards ceremony, to be presided over by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.
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