31. January 2011 · Comments Off on A Man on Fire · Categories: B. Family Legends · Tags: ,
Aureliano Guterres Jorge

Aureliano Guterres Jorge

Ever since I was a small child, among the vague, scary things that sometimes came to mind was the image of a brave man trying to save another man who was on fire.   No matter how hard the man tried, he could not free the burning man.  Then a huge, flaming pillar fell on him and pinned him to the ground.

It was many years later when I realized that I must have overheard the story of how my grandfather died before I could understand it. 

My grandfather, Aureliano Jorge, was a prominent lawyer in Macau.  On February 26, 1918, he died in a fire at the Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong.  He left a pregnant wife and ten children.  My mother was seven years old.

On that fateful day, my grandfather was at the racecourse with friends.  When the fire broke out, he and all but one man in his group had found an escape route.  But this man, a Japanese businessman, was trapped and on fire, screaming for help.  My grandfather, in spite of the friends who were frantically trying to stop him, rushed back to the trapped man.  A heavy pillar fell on them both.  They found my grandfather’s half-burnt gold watch, which was the only thing that identified his charred remains.

Instead of a vague scary image, I now have a heroic act and deep love for my grandfather, who in a decisive moment validated those of us who believe in the profound goodness of the human heart.