71ºF

Local hero honored for saving little girl

14-year-old saved little girl from burning home

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A little more than a year after a local boy rescued a 6-year old girl from a burning home, he is being honored with a national heroism award.

It was a devastating fire, that killed four members of that little girl's family and the tragedy still has lasting effects on that heroic teen, but Robert Pritchard said he's just thankful to have been able to step in.

"I don't really look to be a hero. I did it just to help out. I ain't in it for anything, I just did it to help out," Pritchard said.

Hattie Fowler lost her grandmother and three younger siblings in the fire on Palmetto Street in Oceanway. At the time of the fire, officials said 14-year-old Pritchard noticed Hattie in the window of the home and rushed inside to pull her to safety.

The Department of Children and Families says the next steps after enduring a tragedy such as this is counselling and maintaining a sense of normalcy and stability for 6-year-old Hattie Fowler.
The Department of Children and Families says the next steps after enduring a tragedy such as this is counselling and maintaining a sense of normalcy and stability for 6-year-old Hattie Fowler.

Earlier this week, Pritchard was one of 18 people awarded with medals from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. Pritchard is thrilled with the recognition, but is staying humble about everything. He still lives just around the corner from the home that burned down and he still rides his bike past it just about every day.

He said he still thinks about that day all the time.

"Every time I ride past it on the bike or in the truck I think about it, and just, kind of, get a little bit emotional," Pritchard said.

Emotional thinking about then 6-year old Fowler standing near a window in a burning home with four of her family members trapped inside. But without hesitation, Pritchard went inside and pulled her out.

When asked what Fowler said to Pritchard as he pulled her out, Pritchard recounted that, "She said that she had brothers inside. Brothers and sisters."

Those brothers and sisters were 4-year-old Richard Fowler Jr., 2-year-old Rachel Fowler, 10-month-old Janet Fowler and their 53-year-old grandmother, Sheila Swearingen, all of whom lost their lives that day.

But thankfully Hattie Fowler survived and made a full recovery, because of the heroism of Pritchard, who was surprised by the honor he'd received.

"It come in the mail in an envelope. I opened it up and read it over," Pritchard said.

photo

Pritchard was honored with the Carnegie Medal, a national award for civilian heroism. In addition, he got a check for $6,000.

"I'm going to put it into college. That's if I go, hopefully I do," Pritchard said.

Not only is the community reacting with gratitude, but so are Pritchard's loved ones. But still, there's a lingering feeling for Pritchard.

"Just thinking about how I could have, but didn't get the other kids out," Pritchard said. "My parents go over that with me at the same time too and it'll calm me down. Because I do realize I did all I could have done."

With that realization Pritchard looks to the future. He wants to be a mechanic and he's already repaired the transmission to this Chevy Pickup, which when he gets his license, will be all his.

With the medal and the memories of last year, when asked if he would he do what he did again, his answer is a resounding yes.

"Especially if it was a little girl or a little kid. I wouldn't care what the situation was. I'd do it, I'd help them out," Pritchard said.

For now, Pritchard is just enjoying his summer vacation and looking to get a job soon. He's also spending the Fourth of July with his family and friends.
 


About the Author: