18-year-old Justin Gavin was heading to his local Walgreens in Waterbury, Connecticut to pick up a few items for his sister. On his way there he noticed something that most people only seem in movies. A car, engulfed in flames, driving erratically down the street.
“The car drove past me, on fire,” recalls Gavin, a student at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, New York who is temporarily living in Connecticut.
The car came to a stop and Gavin raced to help the driver and passengers — a mother at the wheel with three young children in the back.
Gavin was scared the car might explode, but raced to help anyway. The door handle in the back was hot to the touch, he recalls, and he quickly asked the 9-year-old child to please unbuckle her younger siblings, ages 4 and 1, from their seatbelt and car seat so he could carry them to safety.
Then he helped the mom out of the driver's seat. It’s believed the fire was started by some type of electrical failure, according to Gavin.
Waterbury Chief of Police Fernando Spagnolo rewarded Gavin for his heroic act by giving him a "Challenge Coin," an award generally given to a stand-out police officer.
“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.”
It's amazing to hear stories of heroic acts especially those that show young people jumping in to help others. Gavin says “Some people think teens are just lazy, but that’s not true," he said. “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.”
We're thankful for his selfless act of courage.