Cory Booker is the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. But based on his more than 1 million Twitter followers from across the country, there’s a good case to name him America’s Favorite Mayor.
Besides being extremely accessible to his constituents on Twitter (often responding to pleas for help obtaining a job with a “send me ur #” message), he’s also been responsible for helping to change the public image of Newark and the quality of life for its residents by bringing multi-million dollar investors like Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg into the city. And when he’s not busy running the city of Newark, he moonlights as a superhero. Seriously.
The mayor has been known to join city police on late-night patrols and even chased down a suspected bank robber on his way to his inauguration ceremony. Just last month, Mayor Booker raced into a burning building and saved his neighbor’s life, suffering smoke inhalation and second-degree burns on his arms and hands in the process.
But the Mayor hasn’t missed a beat. Recently, EBONY caught up with Mayor Booker to discuss his health, heroism and his hope for the city he loves.
EBONY: How's your hand? Any permanent damage?
MAYOR CORY BOOKER: It's really fine. I feel really thankful to God to be alive. It could’ve been much worse. But really, I’ve had worse burns in the kitchen.
EBONY: And the woman you saved, how is she doing?
CB: She’s going to be all right but she suffered much greater injuries than I did. She was in there longer than I was and her lungs took a beating from all of the smoke inhalation. But she has such a strong spirit and lots of family and friends around her supporting her, so she will be fine.
EBONY: You've described the moment you didn't think you'd get out of the fire as a time where you got really religious and had a “come to Jesus” moment. What did you mean by that?
CB: It was a feeling of panic. I was calling out to the woman [trapped in the burning house], but she wasn’t responding and I couldn’t find her. There were flames on one side and on the other it was pitch black from all of the smoke and I couldn’t breathe, so I just felt that I was sort of done for. At that moment, I felt my spirit just surrender to the larger power of the universe. But then I heard [the woman] call out to me and it was like her voice saved me because it made me focus and enabled me to find her and get her out of there.
EBONY: That is really amazing. You were both in real danger in that house and the outcome could have been very tragic for you both. Why do you think your life was spared?
CB: I really appreciate you saying that because, reflecting on it all, it seemed like I arrived just in the nick of time, she called out to me just when I was giving up. God delivered us from that [fire], so He definitely has a larger plan and I’m just a participant in it. There is an orchestration at work that is bigger than me. I don't know what God has planned for me or you or anyone, but I do know that in darkness you discover an indistinguishable light. [This situation] helped me to understand that more deeply. Life is not an accident, and I just know I’m extremely grateful to be alive.
EBONY: Risking your life to save another person is not an isolated event for you. There are countless examples that the public is aware of where you have sought out to help individuals on a personal level, whether it was holding a 19-year-old gunshot victim as he laid dying, or chasing down a bank robber or shoveling an elderly man’s driveway after a snow storm. This seems like great evidence of a spirit of heroism and a deeply caring nature. Where does that come from?
CB: Well, I don't feel these [events are] so unique. I'm in a city which, unfortunately, reveals the heroism in a lot of people on a daily basis. I get to observe human character and human love regularly and I don't think it's unique to me. When we were out there shoveling snow, there was an entire van full of volunteers with me. When I chased down that bank robber on my first day [in office], there were two security guards with me. When a retired guy goes into a lawn that’s overgrown in the neighborhood and starts mowing it, he's the hero of the neighborhood that day. The guy who works a full time job but still manages to coach little league, he’s a hero. And there are firefighters who