Cory Booker’s heroism not unusual to long-time observers

April 13, 2012

When I learned that Newark Mayor Cory Booker rescued a woman from a burning house Thursday, I wasn’t surprised.

I covered his beginnings as a council member when I worked at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey before coming to The Washington Post.

Almost exactly eight years ago, Booker tried to come to the aid of a 19-year-old boy who died in his arms - a heartwrenching story not only about Booker but about a cycle of violence and social ills in Newark.

The latest news of his heroism took me back to the day I interviewed him about his chance decision to take a walk with his father one evening near where had parked and lived in a camper to draw attention to crime there. They heard shots ring out in the city’s Central ward.

Booker ran to the scene, finding Wazn Miller, a teenager whose parents had died of AIDS. Wazn was being raised by an older brother who was trying to keep him off the city’s streets.

This is what I wrote in a story published in The Star-Ledger on April 21, 2004:

“Booker said he cradled Wazn and applied pressure to the wound to his stomach to stop the bleeding. He also kept checking the young man’s pulse.

‘The first time, I felt a weak pulse. The second time, I felt really strange sensations. Then there was no pulse at all,’ Booker said.

Booker said he tried to talk to Wazn until the ambulance arrived.

‘I said, ‘Hold tight. Stay with me. You’re going to be okay,’ Booker recalled.”

Booker has his faults as a politician. I’ve documented that as a journalist.

But I must admit, he often puts himself in harm’s way - from rushing into burning buildings to shoveling snow to holding the young man until his last breath.

They are the kinds of acts of heroism made for TV — and indeed, he’s on TV: “Brick City.”

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