Judy Heath reminisced about her Sunday afternoon in Biloxi. "We were sitting on the balcony, looking at the beautiful ocean," she remembered.
Judy and her husband Donn were with the Harpers, enjoying a Sunday meal. Suddenly, a sun drenched afternoon disappeared behind a blanket of thick, black smoke. "The smoke just got too bad," Donn said. "I thought we were going to suffocate." Judy remembered that scary feeling. "We couldn't breath up there," she said.
So Donn and Judy Heath did the only thing they could think of. They jumped off the balcony, and escaped the Saxony apartment fire. "You panic," Judy recalled, "you hope everything comes out okay."
Donn Heath bruised his arm. His wife needed stitches to close a gash on the back of her head. "We watched the flames, and boy the firefighters did a great job," Mrs. Heath said. "They got people out of here. And thank goodness nobody else was hurt."
As for the decision to leap off the burning balcony, Judy said in hindsight, the couple may have made a mistake. "We're a little bit old for jumping off of balconies," she laughed.
As for the Harpers, Wendell Harper was in the apartment when it filled with smoke. He rushed to the front door, and walked to safety. Eula Harper was on the balcony with the Heaths. But she wouldn't jump. The Heaths said somebody got a ladder up to the balcony, and helped Mrs. Harper down that way.