Thick black smoke filled the room where Lackawanna firefighter Brian Murphy found Claudia Chamo Soliman unconscious, shortly after she tossed her 6-month-old daughter Tasneem Soliman out of a second-floor window and into the arms of a neighbor below.
One more child was still missing. Murphy hoped the other firefighter searching the back of the house would find her.
Within seconds, Murphy heard from firefighter Nicholas Kasprzak.
"Murph, I got a baby. I got a baby," Murphy recalled hearing that day. "He ran out with the little boy, and I managed to get the mother down the stairwell. It was quite the process."
Zainab Soliman, 4, stood by her uncle, Yaser Soliman, and brother Zaid Soliman on Wednesday outside Lackawanna Fire Station No. 3 at 2990 South Park Ave.
It marked a time to honor the 11 heroes — from three Lackawanna firehouses — who worked so hard to get almost 20 tenants safely out of the inferno.
The pre-dawn fire in Lackawanna occurred nearly six months ago and shattered a spring day for residents of four apartments at 97 Ingham St.
In early September, the fire was declared an arson and a reward of $11,000 was posted for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for starting it.
Members of the Soliman family gathered with state and city officials to celebrate the bravery of the 11 firefighters. State Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo, presented the Liberty Medals.
The Liberty Medal is awarded to those individuals who have displayed exceptional heroic action.
"These first responders didn't think twice as they ran into a burning building to save the lives of Zaid and Zainab, and the rest of the family trapped inside," Kennedy said. "They saw danger, and yet they followed their calling, risking their own safety to ensure this family made it out."
Capt. James Fino, the incident commander, recalled the shouts of Khaled Soliman who was laying on the concrete driveway under a second-floor window near the rear of the burning apartment house early on April 22.
The injured father of three had jumped out the window, cradling a daughter.
Three more people on the roof of the front porch waited as firefighters brought ladders from the rig to carry them to safety.
Across the street, a neighbor held Zaid Soliman, 3, who jumped out of that window with his father to escape the inferno that left his family injured and homeless.
Receiving awards from Kennedy were: Fino and firefighters Kasprzak, Theodore Katra Jr. and Nicolai Roussev from Engine 3; Lt. Mark Wodzinski and firefighters Raymond Janczyk, John Koch, Jason Surdyke from Engine 1, and Acting Lt. Gene Olivieri and firefighters Murphy and Ronald Shul from Ladder 6.
Also attending the ceremony were Fire Commissioner Ralph Galanti, Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski, Anwar Al-Kalai, the president of the Lackawanna Islamic Mosque, and Khalid Qazi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of WNY.
Kennedy delivered more good news with the announcement that the City of Lackawanna Fire and Police departments were the recipients of a $100,000 grant for equipment.
The funds will be used to buy a four-wheel drive fire rescue vehicle, new dispatch recording systems for police and fire, ski masks and snowshoes, goggles and blankets for winter firefighting and a police patrol vehicle.