Jeanie Marie Quade was navigating an icy country road Thursday morning on her normal route to work when she came across a horrific scene.
On Blossom Point Road near Heath Place in Welcome, flames were flickering from under the hood of a disabled car, and a woman was frantically screaming, "Help my baby!"
What Quade did in the next few minutes prompted Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis to call the 37-year-old paralegal "a hero by any standard of the word." She got out of her car, pulled the woman's 2-year-old daughter out of the burning car and carried her to safety at the top of a hill. Moments later, the entire car was engulfed in fire, authorities said.
If not for Quade, the child almost certainly would have died in the flames, sheriff's officials said.
"Ms. Quade undoubtedly saved two lives today, risking her own in the process," Davis said Thursday.
The accident occurred about 7:30 a.m. when Rosie Bowie, 24, was taking her daughter, Alyssa, to her sister-in-law's house before she went to work. As she came down a hill on Blossom Point Road, she lost control of the 1999 Saturn on roads that were icy from an overnight rain, sheriff's officials said.
The car struck several trees at the bottom of a hill and bounced back onto the road, blocking most of it, sheriff's officials said. Bowie's first thought was for Alyssa, she said, but she had suffered a concussion and a broken arm, so she was unable to get the child.
Then, Quade's car came over the hill, slowly because of the ice. She stopped when she saw a frantic Bowie yelling for help outside the disabled vehicle, which already had caught fire.
Quade hurried over to Bowie. The main question, she said, was how to get the infant out. The child's car seat was caught between the back of the front seat and the edge of the back seat, she said. On her first attempt to pull Alyssa out through a broken backdoor window, Quade couldn't get the seat straps unlocked.
"I was hearing things popping," Quade said. "It sounded like bottle rocket-type noises. I didn't know if the car was going to blow up, if we had a few minutes or a few seconds."
Perhaps the coolest head of the three was Alyssa. Despite a few bumps, scrapes and scratches on her face, she did not cry or say a word through the entire ordeal, Quade said.
On her second attempt, Quade said, she leaned half her body in through the window, and, somehow, the car seat strap came loose. She pulled Alyssa out the window and hurried her up the hill away from the car.
"It was only then, when I turned around, that I realized what I had done. I didn't know how bad the fire was until I got that second look," Quade said.
The fire, which had started in the engine, spread quickly to the rest of the car and destroyed the vehicle, authorities said. Bowie was taken to Civista Medical Center in La Plata, where her injuries were treated.
Alyssa was flown to Children's Hospital in Washington as a precaution, but she was released the same day.
"It was not a very fun day, but everything turned out good," said Bowie, of Welcome.
Since the incident, Quade has been hailed as a hero by Davis, Bowie and her own 10-year-old daughter, Corrina. Even her co-workers at Fisher Law Group have saluted her, honoring her Friday with a cake.
Quade, also from Welcome, has mixed feelings about the event, though. When she tries to relax, visions of it cloud her mind. She can still smell the smoke.
"It's more horrifying than glorifying," she said. "I am proud of myself for what I've done, but I just don't feel it yet. Even my daughter is saying it, though. Every time the phone rings, she yells out, 'Mommy's a hero.' "