Former football player dove and caught a child dropped from a burning building: Joining God in sharing love that changes the world

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Former football player dove and caught a child dropped from a burning building: Joining God in sharing love that changes the world

July 13, 2020 - Jim Denison, PhD

© Gorodenkoff/

Former football player dove and caught a child dropped from a burning building

© Gorodenkoff/

NOTE: My newest research paper, “What does the Bible say about removing statues?” is now available on our website. The paper examines the statues controversy with cultural analysis, biblical response, and practical applications. I invite you to read it here.

Phillip Blanks is a retired Marine and was a star receiver in high school and college. He was at a friend’s apartment in Phoenix recently when he heard screaming and a commotion. He ran outside and saw the top floor of the apartment complex ablaze and enveloped in smoke. 

He looked up and saw a petrified woman on the third-floor balcony with a child. Flames were creeping up behind her. “People started yelling for the lady to throw her kids down,” Blanks said. 

The mother dropped her son over the third-floor railing. As Blanks saw the small child falling, he dove for him, arms out, and caught him just milliseconds before he would have hit the ground. 

Blanks said his time in the Marines, along with his athletic training as a football player, prepared him for this moment. The Marines taught him to “always be on high alert, not be complacent, and to have discipline,” he said. 

He was not the only hero that day, however. 

The child’s mother ran back into the building where her eight-year-old daughter was. She never came out. Word spread below that a child was in the apartment. D’Artagnan Alexander heard screams and saw the flames. “I have a three-year-old and a nine-year-old, so when I heard there were kids in there, that really hit my heart,” he said later. 

He immediately parked his car, ran toward the smoke-filled building, and made his way to the third floor, where he found the girl and carried her out. 

“Saving this child changed my entire perspective,” Blanks said. “It made me realize how short life is, and how we need to protect each other and treat people better.” Alexander echoed his sentiments: “I couldn’t be more thankful that we both happened to be there.”

“It was not you who sent me here, but God” 

Morgue trucks are being ordered by counties in Texas and Arizona as their morgues are reaching capacity amid the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases in their states. Florida recorded 15,300 new coronavirus cases yesterday, the largest one-day increase in any state since the start of the pandemic. 

In the midst of this crisis, it is easy to feel trapped and powerless. But God knew these days were coming before we did. He assured his people, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” (Isaiah 46:10 NIV). 

And as with Phillip Blanks and D’Artagnan Alexander, he was preparing us for this pandemic before it struck. 

In the midst of a global famine, Joseph told his brothers in Egypt, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:7–8). 

“The reality of heaven touching the reality of earth” 

Now it’s our turn to believe that God was preparing us for this “famine” before it struck, that our past has prepared us for a present that can build a better future.

The Bible calls us “God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:9). As we work, God works. As we experience God’s love, we are to share his love so that others can experience it as well. In fact, we cannot understand our faith fully until we share it. 

If I serve those I love, I find that my love for them grows deeper. If I serve even those I dislike, I find myself liking them in a new way. It is the same way with God—when we serve him by serving those he loves, we find ourselves loving him in an indefinable but profoundly deeper way as well. 

In The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love & Learning, Worship & Work, Regent College professor Steven Garber notes: “We think that worship and work are fundamentally different—one being more important to God than the other, one being ‘spiritual’ and one being ‘secular.’ Rather, if our truest vocation is the imitation of Christ, the very image of God, we see that everyone and everything matters, sacramental as it all is, holy as it must be. 

“In a thousand ways, our human experience of this life in the world should be a window into the mystery and wonder of the reality of heaven touching the reality of earth, a ‘sacrament’ so to speak, if we have eyes that see.” 

“Yearning for heaven and earth to touch” 

Your Father has entrusted you with gifts, abilities, education, experience, and relationships that are combined to make you the person you uniquely are. When you use them to help hurting people, your ministry advances his kingdom and draws suffering souls to our Savior. 

Dr. Garber: “Whether our work is agricultural or academic, whether we are plumbers or carpenters, whether our labor is the law or the marketplace, whether our days take us into hospitals or schools, we want what we do with our lives to be born of something more, reflected, interpreted, and sanctified by the liturgical rhythms and realities of the truest truths of the universe. We are called to be like the Creator himself, yearning for heaven and earth to touch in and through the work of our hands.” 

And when we love others as God loves us, they see his love in our compassion and are drawn to his saving grace. 

Phillip Blanks and D’Artagnan Alexander are rightly being called heroes after what they did in Phoenix. But Blanks said it was the mother who saved her son but didn’t survive herself who is “the real hero.” 

That’s the love of a mother for her children. And that’s the love of a Savior for those he died to save.

If you have experienced his love, with whom will you share it today?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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