The New York City Fire Department of New York recognized 12-year-old Jamoneisha Merritt as an honorary firefighter Thursday, after she was doused last August with boiling water at an ex-friend’s sleepover.
“I’m doing better than what happened before,” said Merritt, who hopes to become a firefighter when she grows up. “I thank God.”
The swearing-in ceremony was led by Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro at FDNY headquarters at 9 Metrotech Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“[The boiling water challenge] has been referred to by many as a prank,” said Nigro. “Using boiling water in this matter, playing with matches and fire or engaging in activity that can seriously burn someone or even take their life is no prank. It is senseless, callous, dangerous behavior.”
Over the summer, Merritt was at an ex-friend’s home when a girl poured boiling water on her face, chest and neck while she was sleeping. Police arrested the 12-year-old Bronx girl who allegedly assaulted Merritt in August and charged her with second-degree assault. An investigation is pending on the incident, which is a replica of the viral internet video the “Hot Water Challenge.”
The girl’s mother, Ebony Merritt, created a GoFundMe page in August, which has garnered nearly $35,000 of the $100,000 goal to help cover the medical costs of skin grafts, hospital visits, possible plastic surgery and mental health counselors to help with the trauma associated with the burn injury.
Ebony Merritt said the FDNY offered support throughout her daughter’s recovery. “She is joyful [and] she is full of spirit,” she said. “This has played a big part in her recovery. People all over the world are reaching out to her.”
Regina Wilson, a FDNY firefighter, said she is proud of the pre-teen’s aspirations.
“Another Black girl, I’ll take it,” said Wilson, who was the 12th African-American woman to join the city’s fire department. “As a young women of color for her to be a part of this organization…is important because it’s important for the community to see that this department respects diversity.”