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Friday, January 05, 2007

The real New York

Syshe Autrey, 4, got a laugh as she aimed five fingers
toward Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg when asked her
age at a ceremony for her father, Wesley Autrey,
behind her. Her sister, Shuqui, 6, yelled, “Four.”

NYC subway savior's actions merit money, gifts and attention

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wesley Autrey probably has enough new nicknames to fill a top 10 list: "subway superman," "hero of Harlem" and "subway savior," to name a few.

Whatever the number, Autrey's dramatic move to rescue a young man in a subway track earned him a spot on David Letterman's "Late Show," capping a day spent basking in his newfound celebrity.

But Autrey has said since the rescue Tuesday that he doesn't consider himself a hero, and he told Letterman's audience it was just "something that all New Yorkers should do."

"How are you going to walk by someone who's ill and just look - 'Oh, well, I'm busy, I've got to go to work'?" Autrey said in an interview broadcast Thursday night.

It was part of a day in which the 50-year-old Harlem construction worker was showered with a trip to Disney World, $10,000 from Donald Trump, a medal from the mayor and plenty of national attention.

In a statement, the family of the rescued man, 19-year-old Cameron Hollopeter, said Autrey "deserves all of the attention and the accolades that are now being bestowed upon him."

Accompanied by his daughters, 6-year-old Shuqui and 4-year-old Syshe, Autrey smiled broadly as he was lauded during an appearance with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city leaders.

Bloomberg called Autrey "the hero of Harlem" and presented him with a Bronze Medallion, the city's highest award for civic achievement. Past honorees have included Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and Willie Mays. The last recipient was Housing Authority employee Felix Vasquez, who caught a baby thrown from a burning building in 2005.

Autrey is "a man who makes us all proud to be New Yorkers," said the mayor.

After giving the mayor thanks and a bear hug, Autrey recounted the details of the risky rescue for the media gathered at City Hall.

Hollopeter, a student at the New York Film Academy, was at the subway station at 137th Street/City College when he suffered a seizure and fell onto the tracks just as a train was approaching.

Autrey was standing on the platform with his daughters and scores of other subway riders when he saw Hollopeter convulsing on the tracks. As he watched, he thought: "I'm the only one to do it."

He eyed the trough between the rails before jumping on top of the teenager, Autrey said, and relied on his experience as a construction worker used to "confined spaces" to calculate - in split seconds - that "maybe we have enough clearance."

Before jumping, he said he made sure his daughters were OK and asked two women to hold their hands.

The southbound train grazed the top of his hat. He said he and Hollopeter remained there for 20 minutes while transit workers shut off the third rail.

Then there was this:

The two men first saw the baby from across the Bronx street, dangling from a fire escape four stories above the sidewalk. His grip was growing weaker by the second. The two men saw only one choice: run over and try to catch him.

They positioned themselves below, arms out. The little boy fell. He glanced off a branch of a tree that was brushing against the fire escape. Then he bounced off the chest of one of the men, who was knocked off balance and could not grab him.

But he landed safely in the arms of the other man, who managed to hold on tight.

And so yesterday, the two men — longtime friends who had been looking over a used Honda that one was thinking of selling and the other was thinking of buying — became the second and third good Samaritans of the new year, not even a week old. The rescue came two days after another New Yorker flung himself onto the subway tracks to save a 20-year-old film student who had fallen from the platform.

“This is a week of heroes here in New York,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said later yesterday.

The two men — Julio Gonzalez, 43, a mechanic who lives in the neighborhood, and Pedro Nevarez, 40, of Corona, Queens — insisted that they had just done the obvious thing. As Mr. Nevarez, who has a 19-year-old foster son, put it: “I’m not a hero. I did what any other father would do. When you’re a father, you would do this whether it’s your child or not.”
I think Keith Olbermann summed it up best: "If you lost a heel, fuggetaboutit. But when it's something big, call a New Yorker."

I think the thing people mistake about New York is the myth of rudeness. Sure, people get brushed aside, but get in real trouble, have a real problem and New Yorkers step up. This isn't the first time someone stepped up in a moment of crisis, but the story is remarkable. The kindness, compassion and bravery of New Yorkers can be astounding.

posted by Steve @ 1:58:00 AM

1:58:00 AM

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