AT 59 years of age, Ilisabeta Mereia can still recall that daring feeling when she dived through a flaming house to save her children and grandchildren, whose distinctive cries of despair still pierce her ears to this day.
Her sheer efforts and fighting spirit, which saved those children that day, were rewarded yesterday when she was handed The President's Cross by President Ratu Ratu Epeli Nailatikau for her act of bravery.
In an interview with this newspaper at Government House in Suva, an emotional Mrs Mereia, who stood beside her sick husband, said she was overwhelmed with the State's recognition.
"I am happy and can't believe that I have received something like this from the President.
"I was told about this last month that we will be receiving the award so I came all the way here," she said.
Mrs Mereia, originally of Yanuca Island in Laucala, Taveuni, said her house caught fire in September last year while her children and grandchildren were in the house.
"That day will never be forgotten. I did not care about myself but for the life of my children and grandchildren.
"I jumped inside the house to save them."
Thirteen-year-old Semi Leweniqila Mara of Labasa Sangam Primary school was awarded the President's Medal for saving the life of a seven-year-old during a house fire.
Mara saved the life of the child who was stuck in the burning house by entering through the window and bringing the boy out.
"I jumped into the house and took the boy out who was stuck inside and was crying," the Kia Island lad of Macuata said.
NFA CEO John O'Connor said they recommended the awards for the two recipients in recognition of their act of sheer bravery.