Edith Shaw, the daughter of perennial political candidate Herb Shaw, who at press time remained in critical condition in the cardiac care unit of Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, was thankful to be alive - and especially grateful for the heroic efforts of NHRFR Captain Robert D'Antonio, who went beyond the call of duty to pull Herb and Anne Shaw out of the dangerous and smoky inferno.
D'Antonio suffered severe smoke inhalation and was transported to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, where he remained at press time. According to NHRFR officials, the heroic fire captain is out of immediate danger, but will remain in a hyperbaric chamber for a few days to make sure he fully recovers.
"I really appreciate what he did," said Edith Shaw, who was hurt trying to escape the second floor of the home but was treated and released. "He lost his Scot Pack and still went in there to get my father out. He knew my father was still in there. He could have easily given up. I'm glad he didn't."
Shaw's father, Herb Shaw, 74, has unsuccessfully run for local offices more than 30 times and is on the ballot this year as an Independent against Rep. Robert Menendez for Congress. The campaign slogan used on the ballot for him and longtime runningmates is "Politicians Are Crooks (Politicos Son Corruptos.)"
When the first NHRFR engine arrived, Herb Shaw had already instructed his family to try to make it out the second floor window, which is what Edith, also known as Edie, did. Herb Shaw was trying to help his wife out the small window, but she couldn't make it.
Captain D'Antonio and Firefighter James Corso climbed through the window and with the help of other firefighters, pulled both Herb and Anne Shaw out and to safety.
During the course of the rescue, D'Antonio lost his mask and tank, after it got caught on the ladder. Still, D'Antonio went into the burning, smoky home and managed to bring Shaw, already overcome by the smoke and unconscious, to safety.
Edith Shaw was able to gain safety by jumping out of a second floor window to the street below, trying to hang jump to the air conditioner on the first floor and then to the sidewalk. She suffered some smoke inhalation, but said she felt fine Tuesday as the NHRFR officials went through the charred shell of the home where she grew up.
Engulfed in flames
According to fire official Tom Irving, the official cause of the fire has not been determined, and the case is still under investigation. However, Irving did rule out possible arson.
"It's definitely an accidental fire," Irving said. "There was some faulty electrical wiring and some other electrical equipment in the house."
Just to be sure, Irving called for the assistance of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which sent investigator Jessica Gotthold to consult on the case.
According to Edith Shaw, the fire apparently began in the back hallway on the first floor sometime after 4 a.m. Sunday morning.
"The smoke alarms went off, and there was all this smoke," Edith Shaw said. "We didn't see much flame. My father opened the door and you could see the flames racing up the walls in the hallway. He closed the door and said, 'We're trapped.' He even put a thing on the door to tell the firemen that we were trapped. I tried to call 911, but it was taking so long. I knew I had to get out of there. The smoke was so intense."
The first round of firefighters found that the stairway was totally engulfed in flames and could not gain access that way. So they sent ladders up to rescue Herb and Anne Shaw from the second-floor window.
It marks the third time this year that D'Antonio went beyond the call of duty. Last month, it was D'Antonio who heroically saved a Guttenberg woman, stopping her ex-boyfriend from allegedly stabbing her several times in a West New York alleyway. The quick thinking by D'Antonio saved the woman's life.
In February, D'Antonio was one of three firefighters who saved the lives of a woman, her infant daughter, and another man in a brutal Bergenline Avenue fire in Guttenberg.
"Captain D'Antonio has certainly raised the bar of what a real hero is," NHRFR Co-Director Jeff Welz said. "On three separate occasions, he contributed to saving the lives of people in the community. There are heroes, and then there's him. He single-handedly raised the bar. How do you do this? It's miraculous that these people were in jeopardy and he not only was on duty, but had the frame of mind to save them. I think he definitely makes it a much better place when he's on duty."
Still on the ballot
Edie Shaw said that her mother, although still hospitalized in Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, should recover and be released soon. Her father, who has run for public office as an independent candidate more than 35 times since 1973, remains in critical condition but has shown some signs of recovering.
Shaw, a long-time electrical engineer for the Newark Board of Education, has taken on many of the established political honchos in Hudson County. He has appeared as a candidate for practically every office - U.S. Senate, Congress, local municipal offices and the North Bergen Board of Education.
"I run for everything, but I never get elected," Shaw said last year when he sought a position on the North Bergen Board of Education. "I've lost every election I've ever been in so far. Usually, I'm up against the organizational people every time. Whoever's in control, that's whom I'm against. I run for everything. I have never run for governor. Maybe that's the next one."
Two years ago, Shaw had said that he holds another distinction.
"You might say I lose," Shaw said with a laugh. "Rather than running, I lose. Some people think that I'm a masochist or that it might be an ego trip, because I don't stand a chance. I may never get elected, but I always bring forth a lot of ideas. Somebody has to rebel. Someone has to say 'No' to what's going on. I'm just one voice."
Edie Shaw was livid that there were at least three broadcast reports Sunday that stated that her father had perished in the fire.
"They said Herb Shaw died," Edie Shaw said. "They have a lot of nerve. My sister called one of the radio stations and asked them to stop and asked them to retract it, but they didn't. My friend almost had a heart attack because she heard my father was dead. There were my father's friends for 50, 60 years calling me and saying they were sorry he was dead. God forbid if any of these stations said anything to say that he was alive."
Added Edie Shaw, "My father is a fighter. He's still going. I do feel fortunate. I know Mom is recovering, and I hope and pray that Dad makes it."