April Genao talks about how Petersburg Officer Wendell James, right, caught her and her family after an apartment fire.
Photo credit: AP Photo/The Progress-Index, Patrick Kane
A Petersburg police officer caught a mother and her two children after they jumped from the second floor of a burning apartment building early Tuesday morning.
Officer Wendell James was the first to arrive at 19 Woodmere Drive shortly before 1 a.m., according to WWBT-TV.
He was able to instruct April Genao to toss her son, Angel, and her daughter, Sophia, down to him and then talked her into taking the leap herself.
Genao lights a candle every night for her military husband and when she went to check on her Sophia, the two fell asleep and the candle continued to burn, setting the living room on fire.
"There was black smoke everywhere and there was no way out," the mother told the news station. "The only way was to break a window, and my five-year-old son and I started yelling for help."
She was hesitant to toss down her kids to the officer at first, but knew she had to do it.
"I just threw my daughter out and he caught her," she said. "Then I was going to throw my son out, but (my son) just pushed me out of the way and jumped himself."
James said that the two children weren't as scared as most would think they would be.
"They were actually pretty calm," he said. "It was mamma we were working on calming down."
Genoa said she started to "freak out" when it was her turn to jump and sprained her ankle on the way down.
She said that the jump changed her life and has also changed her opinion of law enforcement.
"I grew up where, you don't like the police and you're intimidated by them," she said. "But they were awesome and they were right there."
The apartment has been declared a total loss and the family is currently being assisted in finding a new place to live.