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There was no net, no pad to land on, no ladder to climb down. Fire trucks had yet to arrive.
There also was no other choice. It was getting hot. The flames were close. She probably was going to die if she didn't leap 25 feet.
"I didn't know what to do, and I just listened to them," Sofiya Doroshenko, 9, told CNN affiliate WABC
of New York. "I just jumped because it was no chance."
Underneath her were three Mahwah, New Jersey, police officers. Their arms were her only exit.
Fire had just started to roll out the door onto the balcony when she made her move Tuesday night. She jumped backward off the balcony.
"She was the most confident, brave little kid that I've ever met," Lt. Jeff Dino of the Mahwah Police Department. "She put complete faith in us and when she jumped back we caught her."
The "we" included Sgt. Brendan Mullin and Officer Thomas Solimano, who helped catch the falling girl and kept her from any injuries.
They deflected praise for the rescue.
"I really think she deserves the most credit here because of the way she reacted," Mullin told CNN affiliate WCBS.
Solimano told the station that Sofiya was much calmer and cooler under immense pressure than you would expect of a 9-year-old.
Since Sofiya came to the United States five months ago, her parents have counseled her on what to do in case of an emergency.
They were not there when the fire began across the hall. Her mother had just left for work and her stepfather was still on his way home, 20 minutes away.
"I saw black smoke coming from the door of my room," Sofiya told the media. She tried a front door but the smoke was thick and she couldn't breathe. So she went to the balcony and waved for help.
"Were you scared?" a reporter asked. "Yes," she replied, nodding several times.
Her family lost nearly everything in the fire, which also destroyed five more condos.
Yulia Doroshenko wasn't immediately concerned with her loss of possessions.
"I want to thank them," she told WABC on the night of the fire. "I didn't believe this could happen, but it happened and thank you for saving my child."
According to the Bergen Record
, Sofiya came to United States from Ukraine at the start of the school year. The family had only moved into the condo in September.