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Heroic Rescue in New York Subway

After entering a New York City subway station in the first week of 2007, 19-year-old film student Cameron Hollopeter suffered a seizure while waiting for a train. As his body convulsed out of control, the young man stumbled down the platform and fell onto one of the tracks—directly in the path of an inbound train. Fortunately, a 50-year-old construction worker named Wesley Autrey noticed his distress.

Standing on the platform with his two young daughters, Autrey realized that nobody else in the station was going to help. According to later interviews, he decided: "I'm the only one to do it." Placing himself in great danger, Autrey jumped down onto the tracks and grabbed hold of Hollopeter. With only seconds to spare, he rolled with the younger man into a drainage trough cut between two tracks. An instant later, the train cars thundered over both of them with only inches to spare. Amazingly, neither man was injured.

In the ensuing days, Autrey was rewarded handsomely for his bravery. Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented him the city's highest award for civic achievement, calling him "a great man—a man who makes us all proud to be New Yorkers." Autrey was also given $10,000 from Donald Trump, a trip to Disney World, and a year's supply of MetroCards from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. His boss even bought him a "hero" sandwich.

When asked about his invitations to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Autrey noted that "good things happen when you do good." Still, he is modest about his new status as the Hero of Harlem. "I just did it because I saw someone in distress," he told reporters. "Someone needed help."

Other observers respectfully disagree. Elliot Sander, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, called Autrey's rescue "a death-defying act of bravery. We truly have not seen anything like this…. He was at the right place at the right time and did the right thing."

In the end, Wesley Autrey is just glad that he could help. "It's like a fairy tale come true," he said. "What better way to start the year off than saving a life?"

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