This is the type of story that should be getting national coverage. Earlier this month, 18-year-old Justin Gavin was on his way to a Walgreen in Waterbury, Connecticut when he saw a mother and her children trapped inside a burning vehicle.
The young man told reporters that “The car drove past me, on fire,” as he was headed to the store to pick up some items for his sister. Gavin stated that the car stopped and he sprinted to the vehicle to offer assistance.
Upon arriving at the burning vehicle, he saw the mother in the drivers seat and her three children sitting in the back. Despite being afraid that the car would explode, he sprung into action. Gavin recalled that the door handle was hot to the touch and he instructed the 9-year-old in the back to unbuckle her younger siblings who are aged four and one.
First, he carried the children to safety, then returned and helped the mother out of the car. The authorities believe that the fire was caused by an electrical failure, according to Gavin.
Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo rewarded the young man with a “Challenge Coin,” an award that is typically reserved for police officers who distinguish themselves in the line of duty. “Justin showed the country we need each other and need to engage in selfless acts,” Spagnolo told TODAY Parents. “Actions like his show how we, as a society, get through social unrest with an open heart and an open mind. Justin’s getting the attention he deserves, and we want more of this; what he did was so awesome.”
On its Facebook page, the Waterbury Police Department posted a video showing Spagnolo commending Gavin for his heroism. He explained that the award was to celebrate Gavin’s selfless actions on that day. “It’s just to acknowledge this heroic act that you conducted today and a token of my appreciation for you being a great member of this community,” he said.
In explaining his decision to help the mother and her children, he said he thinks it’s what “a lot of teenagers would do.” He continued, “I wouldn’t consider myself a hero; I’d just want someone to help me if I was in that situation and that’s why I ran to the car…This was really about someone else’s well-being, not mine.”
The teenager stated that he would like to meet the family that he rescued and that the police chief is currently trying to make arrangements to that effect. They are still recovering from the ordeal, but they said.
“I feel good about it,” Gavin said when discussing the incident. “Situations can be scary, especially if your life is in danger, but if you jump into action and help someone you feel good about it.”
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