Tataskweyak teen overwhelmed by community reaction after saving children from apartment fire
A 17-year-old girl continues to recover after she helped save several children from a burning apartment complex on a northern Manitoba First Nation a week ago.
On the afternoon of Feb. 11, Shenika Chornoby was walking to work in her home community of Tataskweyak Cree Nation, which is 700 km north of Winnipeg.
She had a bad feeling and stopped to look around near a road. She soon noticed a girl and teenager nearby, who were screaming.
"And then I saw the smoke [coming] from the apartment building," she told CBC on Friday.
"I went upstairs, and went inside, and I grabbed two kids," she said. She brought the two children outside to safety.
That's when a Tataskweyak firefighter showed up, as well as several others from a neighbouring apartment complex who wanted to aid in rescue efforts. Eight of them, including Chornoby, went back into the apartment.
The fire was spreading fast, she said, but she noticed a two-year-old boy crying in a closet in one of the suites. The firefighter took the boy through a window before everyone else got out.
"I was in there for who knows how long," said Chornoby. "And then I got out and I fainted."
Chornoby, who has asthma, collapsed due to smoke inhalation and required CPR from a bystander, which dislocated her shoulder and damaged her ribcage.
She and the two-year-old boy were airlifted to Winnipeg's HSC Children's Hospital, where she woke up three days later.
"It's very much a blur," she said.
"A lot of people were worried and surprised that I made it, because I was the first one in that fire."
'Overwhelming' community response
She is now out of hospital and will soon return home. She said it feels good to be going back and that she misses her school and teachers.
"Everybody's saying they want to see me. I kind of miss them."
Chornoby is now known as a hero in her community.
"I honestly just feel normal. It's kind of overwhelming with how many people know me now," she said.
"I didn't have adrenaline. I wasn't scared or annoyed. I just felt like myself at that moment."
Tataskweyak Chief Taralee Beardy previously told CBC that the apartment blaze could have been prevented if her community had a functioning fire truck. Their current truck has not been functional for over a month due to mechanical problems.
Indigenous Services Canada spokesperson Nicolas Moquin previously said in an email to CBC on Tuesday that the federal government provides about $216,000 per year to Tataskweyak Cree Nation for fire protection and other services.
Chornoby agreed with Beardy, and said many northern communities don't have adequate fire protection resources.
She wants to thank the nurses that helped her recover after the fire, but said that she would run into another blaze if it meant saving more lives.
"I can't let anyone get hurt."