By now, everyone in America has heard about the New York City man who jumped onto the subway tracks to save the life of another man who fallen onto the tracks while suffering a seizure.
It turns out that the hero, Wesley Autrey, is a Laborer and a shop steward with LIUNA Local 79.
The display of bravery by Autrey is rare, but it seems to him just like another day on the construction site. Laborers take pride in the fact that he is a member of LIUNA. “Giving a brother or sister a hand up is what our union is all about,” said Laborers’ General President Terence M. O’Sullivan. “Laborers do that every day on construction sites and in public service, but what Brother Autrey did is simply beyond heroic. His courage fills the heart of each of the Laborers’ Union’s 700,000 members with pride.”
Most people have heard the story…it was published in newspapers across the country and around the world. Autrey was on a subway platform with his two young daughters on January 2 when a 19-year old film student suffered a seizure and stumbled onto the tracks. After taking a moment to ask bystanders to watch his daughters, Autrey jumped down to the tracks and attempted to push the student back up on the platform. At that moment, however, the train approached, and Autrey had to make a split second decision. He pushed the student onto his back between the tracks and lay on top to hold him in place. Though the conductor slammed on his brakes, several cars passed over the pair, rolling to stop with them trapped underneath. It took 20 minutes to move the train and free them.
“In construction, we work in confined spaces a lot,” Autrey, a Navy veteran, says. “So I looked, and my judgment was pretty right. The train did have enough room for me.” Apparently, just barely enough, as Autrey’s hat was greased by the passing cars.
According to Local 79 Business Manager John Delgado, Autrey “is always helping others and he serves as a real role model to other Laborers. We are proud and honored to have him as a member.”
Other New Yorkers were clearly in awe of Autrey’s feat. Donald Trump issued him a check for $10,000, he and his family were given a week-long, all-expense paid trip to Disney World, a scholarship fund was created for his children and the mass transit authority gave him a year’s worth of free rides. He appeared as a special guest on the David Letterman Show, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented him with a Bronze Medallion, the city’s highest civic award. President Bush introduced him to the nation at the State of the Union Address. The President introduced him to the nation during his State of the Union address.
Autrey, himself, was more modest. “I’m not looking at this like I’m a hero,” he said. “The real heroes are the young men and women that are fighting in Iraq now. What I did was something that any and every New Yorker should do…you see someone in distress, do the right thing.”
Brother Autrey will soon travel to the Tri-Fund Conference to be recognized for his heroic actions by the leadership of LIUNA and maybe, if he can be convinced, to say a few motivational words to those in attendance. We should all strive to be like him.