For a 15-year-old, it's no big deal to stay up most of the night playing video games on a hot summer evening when there is no school or job to attend in the morning. But for Donna and Ed Mikulas, of unincorporated New Lenox, it was a matter of life and death.
In the wee hours of the morning, about 3:30 a.m., on July 25, Jaymes Hendry was distracted by the sound of broken glass. Then he spotted a fire climbing up the side of the neighbor's home.
"I went and woke up my parents," he told New Lenox Patch.
While his father, Paul, dialed 911, Jaymes and his mother, Jamie, rushed next door to alert the neighbors.
"They were asleep," she said. "We kept pounding on the door and ringing the doorbell."
Jaymes said, "It took about 15 minutes to get them and out of the house."
Meanwhile, Paul Hendry tried dousing the fire himself. He was spraying the hose on the house on Cass Street in the Cherry Hill subdivision, but the fire spread quickly.
Jayme said she remembered that her husband kept yelling—"Watch the door." He was afraid that she and Jaymes would get hurt. "But we kept pounding on the door. We were determined."
In what seemed like an eternity, Donna Mikulas came to the door. "I could hear her calling for Ed, her husband," added Jamie.
When the door opened, black smoke billowed out, she recalled. At first, "we didn't see Ed, but then he came stumbling out." The smoke was making him dizzy.
"We got them about 20 feet from the door, when the whole house went up" in flames, she said. "All five of us stood back on the front lawn and cried."
The fire department worked feverishly to douse the blaze; nevertheless, the house was a total loss. That area of unincorporated New Lenox has no access to fire hydrants. The fire department used pumper trucks and sucked water out of swimming pools, she said.
"My son doesn't think of himself as a hero, but he is," she boasted.
Jaymes, who is a sophomore at Lincoln-Way West High School, summed up the experience this way: "I'm just glad they're okay and that they're still alive. I'm glad I was there for them, that I saved their lives."
During a recent New Lenox Fire Protection District meeting, Jaymes was honored for his courage. He was presented with the Citizen's Heroism Award. The Hendry Family as a whole also received the same accolade.
Fire Chief Jon Mead said, "The New Lenox Fire Protection likes to acknowledge and reward those that go above and beyond to try to help another human being."
The exact cause of the blaze is still under investigation.