Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Angels Without Wings

An 18-year old man named Cameron Hollowpeter suffered a seizure and fell onto the subway tracks in Manhattan yesterday as a train approached.

Wes Autrey, a 50-year old Navy veteran and construction worker, was standing nearby on the platform with his young children. As they watched in horror, their dad jumped down to the track area and lay on top of the other man, holding him down as the train passed over them both.

"He didn't know who I was," said Autrey. "He was incoherent. The train comes and I have to make the decision whether to struggle and try to get him up to the platform or dive for the gutter and just push him back. So my thing was to just push him back and lay on top of him."

When asked if the bottom of the train touched the top of his head, Autrey said, "It could have."

We hear so much about random violence these days. It's rare to hear about random heroism. It makes you wonder if maybe we all have the kind of selfless shining goodness in us that would make us offer our life for a stranger. If we have resources of courage that we're not using. If maybe we are all angels in disguise. It would be nice to think so.


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks for sharing. It is a wonderful story and a great way to reset our minds in the new year with such an inspirational tale. This guy deserves to be recognised for his selfless heroism. Let's not forget it could have ended as a double tragedy. So fete the guy and make him a role model.

furiousBall said...

I saw this on the news and I had the same thought that long grey mentions - what if he didn't save the guy? But, you know what? He did and the man he saved is alive and his family must be thankful that Autrey did take that risk. One thing not mentioned consistently in the news was his two little girls were standing on the platform watching all this happen. When the train came in and was over top of the two of them, Autrey was yelling up to the people clapping to tell his girls their Daddy was OK. God Bless this guy.

Nicole said...

That is a great story! I'm not sure I would've been that brave. I would like to hope so though.

Open Grove Claudia said...

That's lovely! Thanks for sharing!

Bob said...

I guess not everyone has the courage to jump in front of an oncoming train - I don't know that I could. But there are things that everyone could do to earn their wings. Offer that obviously tired someone your seat on the bus. Help that short someone get something off of the top shelf in the grocery store. These might seem to be little things, not in the category of jumping-in-front-of-the-train, but maybe in the big picture it adds up to mean something similar.

jali said...

I have real tears in my eyes. What a beautiful story!

A friend of mine (a former skate guard from the rink "Laces" in NY) fell on the tracks on his birthday about 10 or so years ago and lost both of his legs. I'm so glad this hero prevented this from happening to anyone else.

Pickled Olives said...

I like to believe we all have a bit of heroism in all of us.

I would have stupidly tried to pull the guy out and been run over (not knowing if you lay flat it will miss you) -OR- I would have grabbed my kids hands and led them out before the train hit him.

I guess it would depend on my mood that day. Apparently that guy was in a good mood.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Maybe this is the year in which we all begin to reach our potential as great souls. When I heard about this on the news, I was scared for his children, for what they might have witnessed.

He sets an incredible example for all.


Yes, God bless him a thousand times over.


I've always heard about "having the courage of our convictions." Wes Autrey didn't just watch another's mishap with horror and cover his children's eyes; he took action. He thought fast and risked everything.


He's an amazing man.


I think we should all do what we can to help one another, even if all we can do is a small act of kindness. Intent is what counts.


I'm so sorry about your friend.

They say we all have guardian angels, but sometimes they manifest as real flesh-and-blood humans. This man redefines angelic for me.


Few among us have the clear head and deep courage he displayed. It's something to aim for consciously.

Lee said...

I'm with Pickles...I would want to help the guy but wouldn't be smart enough to know my options and probably would've gotten both of us killed by trying to drag him up and forever psychologically damaging my kids in the process. I need to take a class on how to think quicker on my feet. Inspirational story!

Lex said...

What a great story and thanks for sharing it. It makes me think of Crankster's last post where he reminds the world that all men aren't the scum of the earth. This guy certainly is not.

I would love to think I'd be as heroic, but I'd be paralyzed by fear, I'm sure of it. Does this mean I'm selfish?

Bob, I sure appreciate someone grabbing that box off the top shelf for me. This, in and of itself could be life-saving, depending on what's in the box.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


That's the thing - the ability to think fast and well combined with a huge heart and the physical agility to pull it off.

I guess if everyone did such things every day, we wouldn't need a word like "hero."


I just read Crankster's post. He's one of my favorites.

And I, too, appreciate it when someone tall volunteers to reach somethig for me. When Flip isn't there, I usually climb up for what I need, which is always way up high.

I don't think fear makes you selfish. We all have various amounts of fear, which handicaps some more than others. The man of my post is clearly exceptional.

curmudgeon said...

[slap slap]
You're dreaming again!!!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yeah, well it's MY dream and I"m sticking to it.

mist1 said...

That was beautiful.

Liz said...

Saw this on TV as well and was pretty amazed by it. I think Wes Autrey was undeniably brave and must just have an immense amount of faith and selflessness. I can't help but think that an angel with wings protected them both. That said, the practical side of me wants to know if Wes had any way of knowing he would have enough room if he laid on top of Cameron. For example, if he grew up in NYC, maybe he has experience tagging in the tunnels or maybe he has construction experience in the subways or something. (I get curious about stuff like that.) Regardless, I know Cameron's parents and family have got to be so grateful.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yeah... What a man!


I have no idea if he knew he could pull it off.

I heard later that Donald Trump, major asshole that he is, is going to give him $10,000. If he needs to aggrandize himself in that way, he should have made it at least a million. It's not as if he can't afford it.

Guess we know who the better man is, the one who acts, not the one who throws money at people for attention.

Wormbrain said...

I'd like to think I myself am as brave as that man.

But since I've become a father, I've developed this funny sense of self-preservation. I owe it to my daughter to not only stay alive, but to stay healthy and successful.

I doubt I could have done what this man did, especially with my kid standing right there. Kudos to a real genuine hero.

urban-urchin said...

I read this on the subway this morning. Thank God for people like Autrey. They rise to the occasion and show us what we are all capable of- "greater love have no man, then to lay down his life for his brother."

God bless him.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I became a reformed speeder when I had children because I, too, realized that they needed me to be around for awhile.

Thanks for coming by today.


Yes, I hope he lives forever.

Michael C said...

Despite what the first 58 minutes of the local nightly news wants us to believe, it's nice to know that there is actually good in the world!
Thanks for sharing such a great story!!

Oh, The Joys said...

That's amazing and inspiring. I hadn't heard about it until I got to your blog.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


There is, indeed. If only the media considered kindness and cooperation as newsworthy as violence and war.


Glad I could help. :<)

Nihilistic said...

That would be SO scary!! I might have peed my pants a bit if that had been me!

heartinsanfrancisco said...



monicker said...

I had a really crappy day yesterday. This made me feel good.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


See, it could have been worse. You could have been under a train.

I hope tomorrow is better.

Le Nightowl said...

The news should be filled with stories such as this, instead of the usual horrors.
It shows man is sometimes capable of the best, under the "right" circumstances (of the worst, too, unfortunately, but let's remain positive)

PS: my new blog is now open :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Your new blog is beautiful! I look forward to visiting you there every day.

thisisme said...

This has even made front page news here in Australia. What a truly selfless thing to do. I heard on the news on my way home that he was given a bravery award already. The little bit of the press conference I heard, he sounded quite bemused by the response. Selfless and humble. Wow

katrice said...

I love this story! I have paid close attention every time it's come up on the news. This is such good stuff! He was on Letterman tonight, but I missed his interview. He is truly extraordinary. Not many people would have taken the chance.

Thank God for good people. They DO exist.

This Trump man, however, should 1) give him more than his mere pocket change, and 2) do it secretly.

Dan said...

Amazing story. Just amazing. We heard alot about this because it happened right across the river from us here in NJ.

I want to be more like this guy. And I think we're capable of it, once we see the amazing connection between all of us. How everything everyone does impacts all of us, in varying degress of directness.

(Adding another New Year's resolution to my stack.)

Odat said...

Yeah I thought the guy did a great thing too...He's been all over the news. He got a medal at City Hall yesterday, a trip to Disney World, and a $10,000 check from The Donald (throw up)...Also, since this occured the papers have printed an outline of the subway tracks and where one should fall or hide or lay if a train is coming...I studied it...just in case....Also, this man claimed there were approximately 85 other people on the platform when this happened...and only about 3 people tried to help....


Thailand Gal said...

I like what he said when being given the award. "I only did what every person should do."



moontopples said...

I saw him on Letterman last night, and it was the first I'd heard of the story, so I felt a bit lucky to hear it in his own words.

What stuck with me was him talking about when the guy first appeared sick or whatever, only 3 out of 80 or so people stopped to help (this was before anyone was on the tracks). He seemed mystified by this.

He said he had a good idea that he had enough clearance because he worked in construction and could gauge spaces. He was only barely right.

Still, amazing story.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story! I needed something to give me a little faith in my fellow humans. Thanks!

p.s. This is Crankster. For some reason, I can't log on here!

Cece said...

I just caught the end of that this morning so I hadn't heard the whole story. Thanks for sharing.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This is You,

I guess genuinely good people don't even realize how good they are. It's quite a moral lesson for the rest of us.


I would have watched Letterman if I'd known he would be on. David's antics have worn a little thin over the years with me, so while Flip watches, I usually read or play computers.

Trump is a jackass. That is chump change for him, and as you pointed out, he could have offered money quietly. I think for The Donald, everything is about him. Even the heroism of another is up for grabs. I despise him, in case you weren't sure.


This man is a wonderful role model for sure. Everyone talks endlessly about how we're all connected, but he demonstrated it without words. As we learned in childhood, actions do speak louder.


3 out of 85 -- those are some odds. What amazing luck for the man who fell on the tracks that the one man in a million who would risk his own life to save him happened to be there.

It makes me wonder if they had a karmic connection.


He is right. He did what every person should do, in an ideal world. However, most do not.


Yes, yes and yes. It is an amazing story.


Mine, too, is restored just a bit by Mr. Autrey.


I saw it on the news and went straight to my computer. It had to be shared.

velvet girl said...

The more that I read about Wes Autrey and what he did, the more in awe I am at it. What an incredible, courageous, selfless man.

He just made a huge deposit in the kharmic bank. I hope that it yields life-long dividends for him.


PS I think I just read tonight that two other men in NYC caught a toddler from a four story fall some time after this happened. Lots of hero stuff happening in the Big Apple. What a wonderful way to start the year.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yes, he is a great man.

I heard a little about the other incident. They were in the right place at the right time. I still think Wes Autrey is the greater hero because he Acted; he didn't just React. Very lucky they did, though.

It seems as if guardian angels are making themselves more apparent lately. Maybe they always have, but we didn't notice.

djn said...

I heard that guy speak after the incident and I was so impressed with him. What a hero!

heartinsanfrancisco said...