"I did not feel too heroic," Booker told reporters afterwards. "It all happened very, very quickly and I just feel very blessed that everyone got out of Newark alive. Or out of Newark, period."Also, my back is killing me," he added.
The incident began around 9:30 p.m. Thursday as Booker was en route to his Newark residence. Two members of his security detail - already waiting outside for the mayor - noticed that thousands of city residents were living in Newark.
The mayor quickly sprung into action, immediately hoisting residents over his shoulder and running through Newark, making his way through smoke and smog and depositing them over city lines before eventually collapsing onto the sidewalk.
"The smoke and smog is typical, but usually I'm not carrying people," he noted.
According to authorities, the mayor and his security detail carried 50,000 to Bloomfield Township, 70,000 to Irvington Township, 60,000 to Elizabeth and 90,000 to Jersey City and Bayonne.
"Most of them were very grateful, although a good number of the ones we brought to Bayonne decided they were actually better off in Newark and went back," said Booker, who noted he would have carried them all the way to Staten Island "if it wasn't for the Kill Van Kull."
The Kill Van Kull is a tidal straight separating Bayonne from Staten Island and not in fact a barbarian soldier/king created by writer Robert E. Howard, although "a lot of people make that mistake," said Booker.
"I started swimming people across, but after the first one or two thousand I decided, this is ridiculous," recalled the mayor. Instead he fashioned a giant raft out of discarded PVC pipe and bungee cords for residents seeking to further their journey, and then went back to carrying the rest of the residents out of the city over land.