Brothers Michael Potts and Brandon Curtis, and their cousin Alonzo Brinkley will never forget watching the video of George Floyd pinned down under the knee of a Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer.
The three young adults, all born in Sacramento, know the plight of the Black man in America and how he can easily be viewed negatively. But their grandfather, who passed away two months ago, instilled in them that no matter what the case may be — do the right thing.
On the morning of July 28, in South Sacramento, they did do something not only right, but also courageous. All three men, not standing around as if they were bystanders, saved an elderly woman from a flaming house fire.
With smoke billowing from the house and not really knowing where people were located inside, the three men acted on instinct.
This time, they had to do something.
“It just wouldn’t have sat well with us. We were not raised to let stuff like that happen,” Brandon Curtis, 31, told The OBSERVER. “Especially with the passing of our grandfather (James Curtis) and it being in this retirement community. It was just a different feeling for us. Somebody dying was not going to happen on our watch.”
The three men were about to leave their grandmother’s (Carol Curtis) house that morning, but before departing, Brandon Curtis went to go check the mail for her, which was located about a half-block away.
Brandon Curtis spotted the flames and saw a lawn care worker running to the house. When the garage door at their grandmother’s house lifted, Brinkley and Potts saw Brandon running to the house. The cousin and brother followed.
They went to the front door and were met by the flames that were coming outside of the house. There was a water hose in front of the garage that they used to try to distinguish the fire but it was too much to combat.
Brandon and the lawn care worker then decided to enter through the garage door but when he pushed on it the flames’ energy forcefully pushed him back. Brandon fell into the lawn care’s worker arms.
Brandon and Brinkley decided to go to the back of the house where they were able to enter. Fabrics were laying around, so they put them on their backs to shield themselves from the flames. Potts secured the dogs on the patio and led them to safety.
Brinkley heard a female’s voice crying for help inside the burning house. Brandon kicked the back door in, he and Brinkley went inside, and were met with thick, black smoke.
Brandon had a water hose in hand where he could put out fires in their path. Brinkley, wearing a face mask and soaked in water, was roaming about until he stumbled across the woman’s leg.
“She was on the floor, my cousin picked her up, handed her to my brother, and my brother handed her to me,” Michael Potts. “We wiped the (soot) off her and took her and the dogs to the front of the house. Personally, I love dogs. So I had to make sure they were safe. I think we did all of this in about five minutes.”
One of the dogs was so traumatized that the trio could not rescue it on the patio. Brandon Curtis quickly built a barricade around the dog to ensure it would not go toward the flames.
After the lady was rescued, firefighters from the Sacramento Fire Department retrieved the last dog on the patio. A lot of damage was done to the home. But every living specimen in and out of the house survived the ordeal.
The brothers and their cousin did not seek recognition for their good deeds. It was not important to them. But Brandon Curtis and Michael Potts’s mother awarded all of them with trophies for saving a person’s life.
“If it happened again, right now today, I would go back into that house while it was on fire,” said Brinkley, who had expressed being a firefighter. “We were all taught to be outstanding citizens. At the end of the day what comes with being a good citizen? Anything that is involved with the public. If it comes down to saving a life and put yours on the line you have to step up to the plate.”
Carol Curtis was terrified for her three grandsons. She had just made it back from a three weeks vacation in Las Vegas. She said it had been tough for the trio after their 80-year-old grandfather passed and she herself suffered a heart attack and later a stroke which made matters worse. She is back to full health.
During their interview with The OBSERVER, all three men were wearing necklaces with a cross.
“We have guardian angels too,” Michael Potts said.
“They just didn’t become heroes on July 28. They have been heroes since they were young,” Ms. Curtis said of her grandsons. “All of my grandchildren have never been in trouble with the police. And since my husband has been gone, they have been taking care of me.”
Brandon Curtis, Michael Potts and Alonzo Brinkley are intelligent and articulate individuals who all have respect for themselves, each other, and other people. They all said they know how tough it can be living as a Black man.
Their parents and grandparents are their rock. But representing their family also has another aspect. Being the best for their community’s ultimate goal. It summed up every reason why they entered that burning house.
“We still have a culture to represent,” Brinkley said. “We are not just out here representing our family. You see the skin tone. We have to represent who we are.”
By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer