Injured Son Scales 19-Story Building to Save Bedridden Mom From Fire

At left, Jermaine and his mother; at right, an image of Jermaine scaling the building
ABC News/YouTube

Last week, the world became mesmerized by the incredible feat of a man in West Philadelphia who managed to scale a 19-story building that had just caught fire. As news footage swept social media, viewers watched in awe as the man expertly descended the building's exterior like Spider-Man, using only his bare hands to grip the concrete walls. The general assumption at the time was that he did it to escape the burning flames and save his own life, but new reports show there was more to the story -- and it makes the whole tale even more incredible.

  • "Spider-Man" has now been identified as a man named Jermaine, who says he risked his life to save his bedridden mother trapped inside her apartment.

    Speaking with WPVI-TV, Jermaine shared that he doesn't actually live in the apartment building himself. But on Thursday night, he got a panicked call from his sister that their mother's apartment building was on fire, and the mom couldn't get out. The 35-year-old didn't hesitate -- he immediately rushed over, and tried to enter the building through the front door.

    There was just one problem: It was blocked by police.

    "They said the elevators are not working," Jermaine recalled.

    No problem, the desperate son told them -- he'd take the stairs. But that's when they told him, "We can't let you in."

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  • It's at this point that most people might panic. After all, it would be understandable if Jermaine, overwhelmed with emotion, broke down in tears.

    But that's clearly not how this guy operates. His mother was trapped on the 15th floor of a burning building, and he was not going to let her die while he stood outside, helpless.

    So instead, he did the only thing he could think to do: He began to climb the building -- from the outside.

    "I took it upon myself because that's my mother," he said. "There's no limits. That's my mother."
  • As it turns out, Jermaine has some experience with climbing. "As kids we used to jump roofs," he told WPIV. "Glad I had the practice."

    With nothing but a pair of wire cutters in his hand, the loving son began the 15-story climb to his mother's apartment, making his way from one fenced-in balcony to another.

    "When I grabbed a gate, at the top of the gate, there was a ledge," he shared. "Then I could step on top of the ledge and reach up to the other gate, and keep climbing my way up."

  • It would have been an impressive physical feat for anyone, but it was even more incredible considering Jermaine was nursing an injury.

    The 35-year-old, who says he's worked as a construction worker and a roofer in the past, had fallen and cracked his hip earlier in the day. But in those adrenaline-packed moments, he wasn't thinking about his own pain.

    "[It was] All for my mom's safety, period," he said. "I wasn't worried about mine at all. She can't get out of the bed or walk around so if there's a fire she needs help out."

  • It wasn't long before Jermaine reached the balcony belonging to his mom Sheila, 65, who was shocked to see him.

    But knowing her son's love for her, it all made sense. (And for the record, he told the outlet that she didn't yell at him for risking his life to save her.)

    "She's not surprised by the things that I do for her," Jermaine shared. "She knows I'll go over and beyond for her."

    According to WPIV, Sheila assured her son that she was OK, and by then news had spread that the fire was contained. 

  • Satisfied that his mom was safe, and assured that firefighters had everything under control, Jermaine left the same way he came: By scaling the walls.

    In fact, it was mostly footage of his descent down the building that's gone viral in the last few days, as stunned viewers have watched in disbelief.

    Once he reached the bottom, Jermaine felt certain he knew how things would end: With an officer arresting him on the spot.

    But to his surprise, that's not what happened.

    "[An officer] told me if I didn't leave I was going straight to jail," Jermaine recalled. "Because that was his job. But, he actually did cut me a break. He understood the circumstances, he knew -- when your adrenaline is pumping, and your mom is up there, you thinking she's dying -- you'd do anything you can."

    In truth, most of us would probably try to do anything we could -- but I'm not sure many people would have the skill or the strength to literally scale a building to save our mothers. For that, I think Jermaine sits in a class all his own. But to him, there was no other option.

    "I'm not just going to sit there and let my mom die," he told GMA. "I'd rather risk my life falling, than let her sit in there and die."