NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New Yorker dubbed "Subway Superman" received the city's highest civic award on Thursday after pinning down a stricken stranger on subway tracks just enough to allow an oncoming train to run over the top of them.
Wesley Autrey, 50, jumped onto the subway tracks at a station in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood on Tuesday to help Cameron Hollopeter, who had suffered a seizure and fallen.
Autrey held down Hollopeter's convulsing body in the track bed as the train passed just centimeters above them. Both were uninjured, but Hollopeter, 20, remains in hospital undergoing tests to discover what caused his seizure.
Autrey, whose knitted cap was brushed with grease and dirt from the train passing overhead, played down his daring act as he accepted the Bronze Medallion — for exceptional citizenship and outstanding achievement — from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"You see somebody in distress, you help out," Autrey told a news conference, as he was flanked by his 4- and 6-year-old daughters, who had watched their father jump onto the subway tracks. "I was just in the right place at the right time."
While Bloomberg called Autrey a "true hero" and the New York Post newspaper dubbed him the "Subway Superman," the construction worker — who went to work as normal after the incident — said the real heroes were U.S. troops in.
Along with the civic award, Autrey was also given a year's worth of free rides on New York's subway and buses, then met with real-estate mogul Donald Trump, who gave him a $10,000 check, along with two other checks from undisclosed donors.
The Walt Disney Co. gave Autrey and his family a one-week fully paid trip to the Disney World theme park in Orlando, Fla, and tickets to the Broadway smash hit musical "The Lion King."
The New York Film Academy, where Hollopeter studies, said it had given Autrey $5,000 and offered scholarships to his daughters, while The New York Daily News reported Autrey had been offered a television show apartment make-over.
Autrey — whose boss didn't believe his excuse for being late to work until he saw on the Internet what Autrey had done — is also scheduled to appear on both "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
"Good things happen when you do good," Autrey said. "What better way to start a new year than saving a life?"
Autrey said he has visited Hollopeter in hospital and met the young man's father.
Previous recipients of New York's Bronze Medallion include civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The last recipient was Housing Authority employee Felix Vasquez, who caught a baby thrown from a New York City burning building in 2005.