More than 43 years ago, 4-year-old Angela Gale Clune woke up in her bed to discover her bedroom filled with smoke and flames. Before she could even begin to scream, she was lifted gently from her bed and carried to her window, where she was handed off to a waiting policeman.
Since that fateful Tuesday morning on May 26, 1970, Angela Clune—now Angela Basore, 47, of San Diego—has always been grateful to the mysterious stranger who pulled her, along with her younger sister and brother, from the flames and saved her life, Santa Ana Police Officer Harlen “Lamb” Lambert.
But it wasn’t until June 6, 2013, that she was finally able to reconnect with Lambert via Facebook to express her thanks.
“I just want you to know what a beautiful thing you did,” Basore wrote to Lambert on the social media site. Now, 43 years after Basore, her 3-year-old sister and their 6-week-old brother were pulled alive from their burning Santa Ana home, she will reunite with her rescuer face-to-face at a picnic scheduled for July 13, 2013.
Lambert, who is now retired from the Santa Ana police department and owns his own business training companion dogs in his Southern California home with his wife, said he was surprised to hear from Basore after all these years.
“When Angie sent her Facebook message, I initially cried like a baby,” Lambert said. “I shared the information with (fellow Santa Ana police officer) Jake Jakobsen, who assisted with the rescue—and, in fact, ended up saving my life as well—who did the same. Officer Jakobsen was instrumental in saving the life of the youngest child by immediately performing CPR.”
Lambert said he gladly accepted Basore’s invitation to meet again so she can personally thank him for saving her life.
“The answer is an easy one: Yes!” said Lambert, who in January 1967, was hired as the first African American police officer in Santa Ana and in Orange County. “I’m looking forward to meeting the Clune family again after all this time and seeing for myself they are well and safe. Receiving the Officer of the Year Award and a Medal of Valor doesn’t have the same emotional gratitude as meeting and celebrating the lives of these young people.”
In the years following the rescue, Lambert has had a celebrated career as both a police officer and a certified dog trainer. He is owner of All States K-9 Detection and Dog Training, and was the first in the U.S. to train dogs to sniff out cell phones in prisons, and today spends his time training companion dogs. His act of bravery has been recognized by the city of Santa Ana as well as other law-enforcement agencies and by community and business groups. In November 1972, he was honored for his heroism with a resolution from the California State Senate.
Lambert has made television productions for the National Geographic Channel (celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan of the “Dog Whisperer”) and The History Channel (”Stan Lee’s Super Humans”).