(CBS) — It’s an image that went viral before there was such a thing: Brookfield Zoo gorilla Binti Jua cradling a 3-year-old boy who fell into the ape’s enclosure 20 years ago.
Kankakee Fire Department Catp. Jeff Bruno remembers it well.
“Aug. 16 — 2:10 p.m.,” he tells CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov.
Bruno was there that day with two other families when they heard the boy’s mother scream and witnessed Binti Jua’s response.
“She cradled him, just like it was her own,” he says.
Bruno offered to help while his brother-in-law picked up his already running camera and shot the remarkable video of the rescue. Zoo employees used a hose to scare other gorillas away. Binti Jua laid the boy down near the exhibit entrance and ran off. Bruno thinks that was a conscious decision on the part of the ape.
“We assessed (the boy) and we packaged him up. I think we used duct tape because that’s all that was there,” Bruno says.
Bruno kept in touch with the boy’s family for a decade. He says the recent incident at the Cincinnati Zoo, in which authorities killed a gorilla that got hold of a child visitor, spurred some memories.
“Cincinnati Zoo had to make a decision. That day they made a decision to save a little boy’s life. It was the right decision,” he says.
And he doesn’t blame the boy’s parents.
“It’s an accident. Accidents happen every day with our kids,” Bruno says.
He’d love, now, to reconnect with the boy he helped two decades ago.
Binti Jua is still alive. Before the child fell in, she had received training on how to care for her babies and other young gorillas.