As the city of Cleveland rejoices over the rescue of three kidnapped women, the Internet is busy crowning a new king. Meet Charles Ramsey, the self-effacing Clevelander whose quick offer of assistance to Amanda Berry has made him an international hero.
By Tuesday morning, Ramsey was not only ruling YouTube, but Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr to boot. Outgoing and friendly with a comedian’s flair, his now-viral video reliving the rescue of Berry (and, eventually Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight) is nothing if not charming. The brief clip is pure feel-good YouTube time; not because he touts his own heroism, but because he doesn’t.
“I was just eating my McDonald’s” he tells local reporters, who ask how the incident began. The nod to America’s favorite fast-food franchise earned him a personalized tweet from the Big Mac masters themselves. “We salute the courage of Ohio kidnap victims & respect their privacy,” McDonald’s tweet reads. “Way to go Charles Ramsey—we'll be in touch.”
They’ll have to get in line.
Attempts to contact Ramsey on Tuesday were met by a turned-off cellphone— undoubtedly the result of incessant calls, and now most likely home to endless adoring voicemails. Throughout the day, friends and strangers, Clevelanders and otherwise, continued to applaud Ramsey’s bravery. “We dont need batman cause we have charles ramsey #respect_from_greece,” says one adoring Twitter fan. “Cool thing aboutCharles Ramsey? He thought there was trouble and didn’t bury his head in the sand,” says another in Arizona.
A call to the restaurant Hodge’s, the “upscale cuisine” eatery where Ramsey works as a dishwasher, simply reinforces his celebrity status. “We’ll add your request for comment to the pile…it’s already huge,” a particularly friendly employee tells The Daily Beast.
So who is this knight in shining Mickey D’s armor anyway?
In fun terms: he’s a rib lover, salsa-dancing enthusiast, who was flabbergasted that reporters made him retell his story without Gatorade. In serious terms: he’s a man who saw someone in trouble and—instinctively did the right thing.
After overhearing screams from a woman next door, Ramsey and another neighbor, Angel Cordero, ran to help. Upon reaching the porch, the woman informed them that that she had been kidnapped. “I’ve been in this house a long time,” Ramsey recalled her saying. “I want to leave right now.” When Ramsey was unable to open the door, he kicked it in. Amanda Berry, who had been kidnapped a decade earlier, got her first taste of freedom.
Ramsey, still holding his Big Mac, had yet to grasp the gravity of this situation. His first thought: “Isn’t Amanda Berry dead?”
It wasn’t until police arrived on the scene that Ramsey says he realized he’d saved not just one kidnapped victim but three. Berry, DeJesus, and Knight, missing for more than 10 years, were finally safe. But as Ramsey says over and over again, he was just a guy eating his McDonald’s.
Listening to Ramsey’s 911 call, it’s almost as if he’s done this whole rescue-operation thing before. “Hey, bro,” he says to the dispatcher calmly, “check this out.” When the dispatcher sounds unsympathetic to the story, Ramsey’s quick to tell him what’s up. “She’s been kidnapped, OK? Put yourself in her shoes.”
Ramsey’s actions have been deemed heroic by virtually the entire city of Cleveland. And his employer, Hodge’s, is beaming like a proud parent. “We're extremely proud of our employee Charles Ramsey for not turning his back on the young women. He's a true Cleveland hero,” reads a post by Hodge’s Cleveland on Facebook.