|A lifesaving presentation at the Edsall Road Fire Station. From the left: Deputy Fire Chief Willie Bailey, Mason Supervisor Penny Gross, Michael Illenberg, and Drew Murphy.|
Michael Illenberg was walking his dog at about 5 a.m. on Nov. 10, on a very cold night, when he saw a little girl about 2 or 3 years-old wandering around with bare feet and pajamas.
Illenberg and his partner, Drew Murphy, saved her life, and for their actions, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department presented citizen lifesaving awards to them Dec. 5 at the Edsall Road Fire Station.
After spotting the child, Illenberg looked around to see if her parents were nearby. He didn’t see anyone, so he took the child to his home at the Windy Hill Condominium. She was shaking from the freezing temperature but not crying, he says.
Illenberg and Murphy wrapped her in a blanket, called the police, knocked on doors to try to find a parent, and to ease the child’s fears, asked a female neighbor to come by.
A Fairfax County police officer found the girl’s mother asleep in her condo with the door unlocked. She hadn’t even known the child had gotten out.
A surveillance video showed the girl had been outside for at least 40 minutes, tried to open a gate on the fence around the complex’s swimming pool, crossed the street, and scared away foxes who were trying to catch a mouse.
At the award ceremony, Mason Supervisor Penny Gross called the incident a great example of being at the right place at the right time. If it hadn’t been for the actions of Illenberg and Murphy, “the ending of the story could have been tragic.”
Illenberg said his dog, C.J., was the real hero, as the beagle normally doesn’t wake him up that early.