Man Who Rescued 5-Year-Old Girl from Tragic House Fire Reunites with her on the Day She Graduated from College Nearly 20 Years Later

Ted Sutton speaks at the podium about Jacquiline Miller, left, before she receives her diploma on May 19, 2015. Miller, 24, is graduating from Towson University in Baltimore with a bachelors degree in English. When she was 5 years old, she was rescued from a house fire by Sutton. Jacqueline was badly burned and lost her hands in the fire and now uses a wheelchair. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
Ted Sutton speaks at the podium about Jacquiline Miller, left, before she receives her diploma on May 19, 2015. Miller, 24, is graduating from Towson University in Baltimore with a bachelors degree in English. When she was 5 years old, she was rescued from a house fire by Sutton. Jacqueline was badly burned and lost her hands in the fire and now uses a wheelchair. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

When Ted Sutton closed his eyes and thought about Jacqueline Miller, a heartbreaking image would form in his mind. 

He’d see the beautiful little 5-year-old girl outside a burning Baltimore City rowhouse. Wearing only a nightgown, with braids crowning her head, she was so badly burned that her skin was already loosening like wet paper.

An ambulance whisked the girl and other victims of the 1996 fire on Biddle Street to the hospital. Someone bandaged the hand Sutton burned while helping rescue people from the fire.

Did the little girl survive? Was she happy?

“I’m like, ‘What happened to everybody?'” Sutton said. “I had so many unanswered questions.”

On Wednesday his eyes beheld a new vision of Jacqueline Miller: A confident, smiling 24-year-old young woman, wearing a cap and gown to receive her bachelor’s degree from Towson University.

“This is like a dream come true,” Sutton said. “I never would have imagined in a million years the interaction we had that day would lead to where we are today.”

Miller suffered third-degree burns over more than 90 percent of her body and lost both of her hands. She uses a wheelchair to get around.

But determined and focused, she was the first member of her family to graduate from high school when she earned her diploma from the city’s then-Doris M. Johnson High School with perfect attendance.

Now she’s the first to graduate from college, too, earning a degree in English with a minor in communication studies. She’s making plans for a relaxing summer and considering job prospects. She’s thinking about going to graduate school to study social work.

“I always knew I was going to college, but I didn’t think I was going to finish,” Miller said.

It took her six years. She struggled at times and had to take time off when she was sick. She passed her last exam Monday.

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Source: Baltimore Sun | Pamela Wood

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