Pennsylvanians were the subject of some upbeat stories last week, providing a welcomed respite from the depressing news emanating from Washington and the Middle East.

A Scranton man named Tom (last name unknown) may not have been wearing his Superman cape, but he did make that kind of impression for a few hours last Friday.

His day began by rescuing a woman from a burning Scranton home. Marie Michalek, 43, managed to first escape the flames in her residence by kicking out a second-floor window. After stepping onto the roof with her dog under an arm, however, she remained trapped until Tom, who recently moved into the neighborhood, raced to the scene with a ladder to help bring her and the pet to safety.

Soon after Tom's feet hit the ground, he was flying to another personal mission that involved his wife, who was in labor. He got her to the delivery room of the hospital just in time.

A state police fire marshal ruled the fire, which began in a shed between two homes, an arson.

Thankfully, all five people in the homes got out safely.

The young subject of our second news story out of Luzerne County quickly went international.

Five-year-old Noah Ritter of Wilkes-Barre became an instant star after being interviewed by a WNEP-TV reporter at the Wayne County Fair.

When asked about his thoughts on the fair, Noah took the microphone and gave us a spontaneous kid commentary that was hilarious.

The confidence and ease he showed in front of the microphone was quite remarkable, as was his overuse of the word "apparently" which made the segment a knee-slapper.

The "Apparently Kid" video quickly went viral and had 11 million views in less than a week.

On the "Today" show a day later, Noah admitted not knowing how to spell "apparently," or even knowing what it means!

It's priceless live television when a 5-year-old can capture an audience without even trying to be or knowing he's being funny.

Across the state, at a speedway about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Betty Evans, an 81-year-old woman did her generation proud when she celebrated her birthday by taking a ride in a race car.

Family and friends brought her to Jennerstown last Saturday to take a 100-mph ride in a mid-1990s Chevrolet Monte Carlo race car.

She even had to crawl in through the passenger-side window to get into the car, just like the big boys of NASCAR. After zooming around the track, she said the trip was "great" but admitted she now has her sights set on driving a race car.

Superman Tom, 81-year-old Betty and 5-year-old Noah each inspired or made us smile last week, and we're all the better for it.

By Jim Zbick