Henry Cejudo was asleep in his hotel room when the Northern California wildfires erupted on Monday night. The hotel’s fire alarm went off at around 2:00 a.m., but thinking that it was nothing serious, he went back to sleep after being briefly woken up.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know why they’re doing that. I thought it was just a California thing,’” Cejudo told Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole. “I didn’t think anything of it. I’m an Arizona boy.”
“I looked out the window and everything was OK. I was just thinking that someone had hit the alarm but it didn’t seem like there was anything wrong. I just went back to sleep.”
As it turned out, the wildfires that swept through Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties were a lot more damaging. Reports as of this posting have claimed that the death toll has risen to a total of 17, and around 2,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. 20,000 residents have already been ordered to leave the area.
Cejudo was once again awakened by the disturbance at around 4 a.m. This time, he already saw the severity of the situation, which left him no other choice but to jump out the window of his room located on the second floor of the building.
“I saw houses on fire and I looked to my left and half of the hotel I was staying at, my floor, was on fire,” Cejudo recalled. “It was scary. And at that time, the only thing I could do was to grab my slacks. I grabbed my slacks I wore the night before, but I couldn’t see anything to do anything else. I put my slacks on, I opened the window and I jumped off. I leaped off the second story of the hotel.”
“As I jumped off, I landed on a branch that was on fire. Honestly, there was fire everywhere. The fire burned the top of my right foot. I was OK, but I had to put the fire out that was on my right foot. And as I was walking toward the front of the hotel, where the lobby was, it was all going. I saw the hotel on fire, cars on fire, houses around it. It was terrible.”
At around 4:30 a.m, Cejudo ran onto State Route 101 in Santa Rosa with no shirt or shoes on and flagged down an oncoming fire truck. After the entire ordeal, he realized that he left his Olympic gold medal, Olympic ring, and Olympic belt inside the room. But ultimately, what mattered more to him was being able to escape death with just minor burns on his foot.
“You know, the medal just was an object, just a medal and that’s it,” Cejudo said. “What really meant something was the blood, the sweat, the tears that went into getting that medal. I’ll always have the memories of that with me.”
“I’m not too worried about that,” he added. “This was a tragedy, just like that terrible thing that happened in Vegas. It’s awful. Losing a medal, man, I am fortunate to be here talking to you and being alive. That’s the important thing.”
“I’m just happy to be alive.”