BOSTON (AP) — Two young men who rescued an elderly couple from their car moments before a train slammed into it were honored Tuesday with a civilian bravery award named for Madeline Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant who discreetly communicated with ground crews from one of the hijacked planes that was flown into the World Trade Center on 9/11.
The annual award was presented at the Statehouse as part of Massachusetts' commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the terror attacks.
On Jan. 4, as a blizzard had begun to pound the region, Ryan Saba and Ray Armstead were in a pickup truck behind a car that became stuck on railroad tracks in Bridgewater as a train approached. Inside the car were Arthur and Peggy Barros, apparently unaware of the oncoming train.
Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Dan Bennett, who helped present the award, said Saba and Armstead jumped out of the pickup truck and ran to the car. Because of white-out conditions from the storm, they could hear but not see the train.
They were quickly able to get Arthur Barros out, but Peggy Barros' door was locked.
"The train was getting closer and closer and they knew they only had seconds to get her out of the car," said Bennett. "And even though the door was locked, they were persistent and they finally did and they saved both their lives."
Moments later, the train slammed into the car, throwing it some 20 feet into the air.
"I just hope that other people think of the same thing to do in a situation like that," Saba said. He said it was an "absolute honor" to receive the award named for Sweeney.
An Acton resident, Sweeney was a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11, one of two planes hijacked on 9/11 from Boston's Logan International Airport. She was credited with quietly and courageously providing authorities on the ground with critical information about the unfolding terror attack, including physical descriptions of the hijackers, their seat assignments and actions aboard the plane as it approached New York City.
Tuesday's 9/11 commemoration included a reading of the names of the more than 200 people with Massachusetts ties who died in the attacks. Presiding over the ceremony was Andrew Card, a Holbrook native and onetime state lawmaker who as then-White House chief of staff was the man who informed President George W. Bush that terrorists had struck on Sept. 11, 2001.
Bush was speaking to school children during an event in Sarasota, Florida, when Card entered the classroom and whispered into the president's ear: A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack."
Card said Bush nodded slowly but said nothing aloud immediately, not wanting to escalate fear. The president had earlier been informed about the first plane that struck the World Trade Center, but in those initial moments it was thought to have been an accident involving a small plane.
Days later, Card traveled with Bush to Ground Zero in New York City. He recalled a private meeting with relatives of firefighters and police officers who were missing in the rubble of the World Trade Center.
As Bush left the meeting, Card said a woman handed the president a police badge belonging to her son, George Howard. A tearful Bush promised the woman he would never forget her son, and "carried that badge with him for the rest of his presidency."
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