Pint-sized Superhero

Published 7:58 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2006

By By Adam Prestridge
When most people think of a superhero, tights and a cape come to mind.
McCullough's pint-sized superhero, Brennen Stewart, sports cowboy boots and a huge gold belt buckle.
His family and neighbor have dubbed the nine-year-old a hero after he kept his cool when his family's Taylor Circle home caught fire on Dec. 27, 2005. Stewart alerted his mother, Shannon Caraway, his three sisters and cousin when he noticed the kitchen was on fire. He assisted his family out of the home and then, without hesitation, ran to his next-door neighbor, Don Whatley's, home, who quickly followed him to the home and snuffed the fire out.
"I thought it might have burned down if I wouldn't have told someone," Stewart said. "I wanted to get the girls and my mom out. Then I went over to Mr. Whatley's house."
Even though Whatley risked his own life to enter the burning home engulfed in thick, black smoke, he believes Stewart is the true hero.
"It's just something you do," he said. "You do the best you can with what you've got. I don't feel like I've done anything special. I just went over there and did what I was supposed to do. The little boy was the hero. He let me know it was on fire by beating on my front door, hollering. All I did was go over there and put it out. The little boy kept his wits about him like an adult. He knew where help was and came and got me. He's the one that did the good deed."
Whatley, who is superintendent of the Atmore Street &Sanitation Department, has lived next-door to Stewart and his family for seven years. He said he never hesitated to come to the family's aid.
"I had some things happen in my life time that helped me know what to do," Whatley said. "I went over there and smothered the grease out with a towel and turned the stove off. The cabinets were burning above the stove so I went outside and got the water hose and put them out. I did what I thought was the right thing to do and it worked out. I'm not a hero."
Caraway agrees that her son's quick thinking was heroic, but believes Whatley is deserving of some of the credit as well.
"The fire department said that if Mr. Whatley would have been a minute later
that the entire house would have been gone," she said. "He's my lifesaver right now. He (Whatley) got off work early yesterday (Dec. 27, 2005). God sent him home for a reason. Thank the Lord we still have a home."
But without Stewart, Whatley admitted that he wouldn't have ever known his neighbors' home was on fire and it could have burnt to the ground.
"To be honest, I wouldn't have known anything about it if it hadn't of been for Brennen," Whatley said. "It could have been worse. He's an outstanding young boy. He handled himself quite well. He's the one that needs a pat on the back. It was just an unfortunate accident. Everything fell together good for it to be stopped as quickly as it was."
As for her son, Caraway couldn't be more proud.
"We are so proud of Brennen's quick thinking," she said.
Stewart held his head high Thursday when insurance adjusters visited the damaged home to assess damage. He was open to all the attention he was receiving.
"Everyone's calling me a hero," he said. "That's cool. It was also cool for Mr. Whatley to help us and very brave of him to go in the house and put out the fire."
For now, the Caraway family is residing in McRae Apartments in Atmore. Fortunately, they have received several donations from the community, but they are still in need of some assistance.
"We're in need of towels and blankets for the apartment and any other gifts the community has to offer to help us out," Caraway said. "We didn't lose any of our clothes though. Both of my sister-in-laws and a friend of mine went in and got clothes and stuff out before they ruined."
So when Stewart returns to Huxford Elementary School this week, he will definitely have more to discuss with his fellow third graders than what Santa brought him.

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