A Texas police officer who helped save three children from a burning building this week – catching them as they jumped to safety – tells PEOPLE it’s all just part of the job.
“It feels a little weird because to me I’m thinking, ‘Well I don’t think it was that big of a deal,’ but that’s just me. I just did what came naturally,” San Antonio police officer Tim Bowen says. “I did my job – and that is to help people.”
On Monday morning, Bowen and his partner were on patrol in the central Texas city when they saw smoke appear in the sky. They were the first on the scene of an apartment building fire and, upon arrival, Bowen heard noise coming from the second floor.
He spotted a child in the window – and soon realized there were actually four kids up there.
“They were screaming, they were scared,” Bowen says. “They had no place to go.”
For the next five minutes, he convinced three of the four children to jump out of the window and into his arms.
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“It took a minute or so to try and calm [them] down and have them listen to me and have faith in me,” says Bowen, who has been with San Antonio police for 27 years.
One of the children, a 4-year-old boy, was too scared to jump the 16 feet, Bowen says. He was saved by San Antonio firefighters, who arrived minutes later.
‘There Is Good Out There’
Firefighters extinguished the fire, which destroyed four apartments, KSAT12 reports.
They believe the fire started in a stairway the apartment shares with other units, according to KSAT12. Arson investigators are also working to pinpoint a cause.
“Everything else is material. As long as we’re living, I’m blessed for that,” Jakim Cunningham, mother of two of the children, told KSAT12. “But it was a horrible experience.”
Bowen says when he got home, his 14-year old son had already heard about the rescue through social media. The 53-year-old father of three believes the story is so popular because of its timing, following tense relationships and a string of racially charged conflicts between police and the public.
“[Race] doesn’t matter to me. I’m here to help you in any way I can,” Bowen tells PEOPLE.
The rescue “shows that there is good out there, that it’s not just bad,” he says, “and I think people need to kind of open their eyes a little bit and see the good instead of the bad.”