From The Mayor's Desk ...
I've always known that New Yorkers are an exceptional group of people. But, over the past few days, some of our fellow citizens have really distinguished themselves. These brave people have gone beyond the call of duty to improve - and even save - the lives of New Yorkers.
Take, for example, Wesley Autrey. By this time, nearly everyone has heard the story of the "Harlem Hero." Last Tuesday, this everyday New Yorker committed an extraordinary act of bravery when he risked his own life to rescue a complete stranger who had tumbled off a subway platform as a train was entering the 137th Street station. Thankfully, Wesley's risk was met with success. He saved a young man's life and emerged without a scratch. But his actions made an enormous impression on the rest of us.
Last Thursday, on behalf of the entire City of New York, I presented Wesley with a Bronze Medallion - the City's highest award for civic achievement. Other people who have received this prestigious award include General Douglas MacArthur, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Muhammad Ali. Amazingly, on the same day Wesley received his medal, two more heroes were born when quick-thinking friends Julio Gonzalez and Pedro Nevarez caught a young child who fell from a fourth-story fire escape in the Bronx.
Another heroic story that bears repeating is that of Police Officer John Lopez. On December 30th, Officer Lopez was enjoying a quiet Saturday with the family in Elmhurst when two criminals who had just robbed a bank, attempted to steal his car for their getaway. This 8-year veteran of the NYPD not only fought off the two suspects and protected his family, he then leapt out of his car to pursue the criminals on foot. In an exchange of gunfire, one of the men shot and wounded Lopez, but Lopez continued his pursuit, seized his assailant, and held him until backup arrived. Thanks to the bravery of Officer Lopez - who is now back home with his family - $15,000 in stolen money has been recovered and two dangerous career criminals have been taken off of our streets.
There are also countless other everyday heroes in our city who don't make headlines or get medals. I'm talking now about the teachers, hospital workers, firefighters, sanitation workers, and many, many others who keep New York running, morning, noon, and night. For example, 83 of these heroes - members of the Department of Sanitation - were out in full force on New Year's Day.., working steadily to clean up 42 tons of confetti, party hats, and other debris left in Times Square by the more than one million people who came there to usher in 2007. And just a few hours after they started, the Crossroads of the World was spotless, and ready to welcome the millions of people who walk through it every day.
There's no doubt about it, New York City is a town that inspires courageous action. And on behalf of all New Yorkers, I salute the brave spirit of Wesley Autrey, Julio Gonzalez, Pedro Nevarez, Officer John Lopez, and all of our everyday heroes. It is that same spirit that helped guide our city through its darkest hours after 9/11 and lead us to the success we enjoy today. Once again, New York has shown itself to be a city where heroes are not only possible - they are plentiful.