It was a moment of genuine humanity--perfectly juxtaposed against a backdrop demonstrating Mother Nature's seemingly ruthless and humbling powers.
It was the moment when the world collectively took a brief sigh, fulfilled to learn that a man in the infamous red hoodie came to the rescue when a little bunny needed him the most.
Last week, as the wildfires in California raged on, a man named Oscar Gonzales came forward, acknowledging that he was the hero who ventured into the middle of a scorching wildfire to save a frantic bunny, as documented in a video that since went viral. Gonzales told Los Angeles NBC affiliate KNBC that he was driving through one of the fires last week on his way home from work on Tuesday when he and a friend noticed a bunny running along the highway, the Washington Post took note.
“I love animals, myself, and I just felt bad,” he told the station.
In the video, Gonzales says he's the man who was seen jumping up and down as colors of red and orange lit up the sky. Describing what he was doing, Gonzales said he was attempting to get the rabbit's attention.
“At first, he was afraid of me because I was yelling, but then it went in my arms. And I picked up the rabbit, and I ran on the other side, and I dropped him off there.”
And just like that, Gonzales became an Internet hero.
His obvious distress over the bunny's fate when it runs into the fire, his tenacity against the heat and flames, his gentleness as he holds it close all had me in tears. God bless this young man.— Colleen Vawter (@colleenv123) December 7, 2017
But Caleb Wadnan on Saturday changed the dynamic of the narrative when he came forward and said that the was the one in the video. He described his story very similarly.
“I just ran after it,” he said. “I had a lot of faith in me at the time being. And so I was just focused on the life at hand rather than the flames around me.”
KNBC was able to better corroborate his story since he was wearing the same outfit as the man in the video--not only the red hoodie, but also the black gym shorts. Wadnan also presented photographic evidence of a singed bunny that he subsequently dropped off at the vet's office.
The disagreement over the man in the red hoodie prompted the NBC affiliate to write an editor's note:
"On Saturday, NBC4 found reason to believe that Oscar Gonzales was not the man in the video as he claimed and followed up him with him and his girlfriend. The couple still insists he was the one seen in the video, but after using an enhanced image NBC4 has concluded the actual man in the video was Caleb Wadnan."