A standing ovation was in order at the State House on Sunday, as local leaders and officials honored a man who made a daring rescue during a house fire in western Massachusetts.
Paul Galotti of Easthampton was the recipient of this year’s Madeline “Amy” Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery, honored during the state’s 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony.
“It still doesn’t feel real, a lot of it,” Galotti said. “I was just doing what I was raised to do, you know, in that moment, and for it to lead to this is just, it doesn’t follow logically for me but, I’m very humbled by the whole experience.”
Back in May, Paul was watching Celtics playoff basketball at home with his wife when she heard something strange across the street.
“I ran out the backdoor and came around the front of the house, I could see all the fire coming out of the lower level of the house, and there was like, four or five cars in the driveway, so, I figured, somebody was in there,” he explained.
Paul ran into the fire, telling 7NEWS that he banged on doors and yelled, but didn’t hear anything initially.
Then, he heard a voice.
“I just called the basement one more time and there was someone down there, and your heart just, you know, it’s in your stomach, you know, there was just so much smoke coming out of there,” he said. “I was like, I didn’t even know, at that point, how someone could be yelling back to me.”
A man confined to a wheelchair was stuck in the basement as the fire continued to grow. Paul said he tried once to get to him, had to come back out for air, pulled his T-shirt over his mouth, then went back in.
“I was able to find him – I was lucky he was close enough that I could reach and was well enough to carry him, just lifted him up and carried him out,” Galotti said.
Paul was able to get him out and away from the flames before first responders arrived, likely saving the man’s life, according to officials.
Despite the award, he said there is no need to thank him.
“(I) was just doing what I was supposed to do and able to do,” Galotti said. “I was lucky to be in a position to be able to get there fast enough and make a difference.”
Making a difference is the lasting legacy of Madeline “Amy” Sweeney, a flight attendant from Acton, she was working onboard Flight 11 when it was highjacked.
In spite of the danger, Sweeney was able to contact ground services crews to along information, before the plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Now, 21 years later, her daughter is helping to present the award in her mother’s name.
“It celebrates life and the ability of the human spirit, to reach beyond concern for one’s self, and to act for concern with others, even in the face potentially devastating consequences,” Anna Sweeney told the audience during Sunday’s ceremony.
Paul told 7NEWS that being chosen to honor Sweeney’s memory is something he will never forget.
“I mean, just knowing what so many 9/11 families have been through, what Amy Sweeney went through, to be here for that, it’s just a huge honor,” Galotti said.
Those who wish to nominate a future recipient of the Madeline “Amy” Sweeney Award, honoring their own sacrifice, can fill out an official nomination form here.
More information on the Madeline “Amy” Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery, including past recipients, can be found here.