EXCLUSIVE: As TJ McCorkle's house burned, he faced choice: 'Jump or die'

Jump or die.

That was the choice Savage resident TJ McCorkle faced while his townhouse was on fire Thursday morning.

More: Family struggles to move on after fire destroys home in Savage

So he took the leap out a second-story window.

McCorkle, 20, says his biggest worry was that his family members would die in the blaze.

"I was more worried about them than anything," he tells Fox 9.

TJ was home alone, sleeping upstairs in a 144th St. townhouse he shares with family members when smoke starting creeping into his room.

"I couldn't see or breathe... I don't like heights but I was kind of afraid to jump."

But he knew he had to think fast.

TJ's mother, Theresa, recently went through a divorce and has another son, Trayvon, who has muscular dystrophy.

She was at a doctor's appointment Thursday morning learning Trayvon's condition is worsening and he might need surgery as the townhouse went up in flames.

TJ says the window to his room had been giving him trouble when he tried opening it in recent weeks, but not Thursday.

"I could not open that window besides that one day at all," TJ says, adding that a civilian who watched on as the townhouse burned encouraged him to make the roughly 10-foot drop to the pavement.

"Some guy in blue was telling me you have to jump so I put my hand on the railing and dropped."

TJ landed on the concrete. He didn't break any bones, but he's going to need surgery for the 2nd and 3rd degree burn injuries he suffered. He's currently in satisfactory condition at HCMC's burn unit.

TJ says the harrowing ordeal strengthened his faith in the almighty.

"The whole time I was thinking that my family's dead, I thought God pretty much forgot about me, and I thought, I don't matter, but when I saw my mom come in my room I realized He actually does care," TJ says. "My family is okay. Faith helped me believe that."

If you'd like to donate to Theresa and TJ's family, click here or go to any TCF Bank, where a McCorkle Recovery Fund has been set up.

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